just shoot me

I had occasion recently to appear as a talking head in a video for a little project my neighbor and I are doing. I dressed carefully and put on make-up.  I rehearsed my talking points a few times and, as I was already passionate about the subject matter, felt pretty confident about it. We did just one take; she said I nailed it.

And then I saw and heard me in the rectangular box, and this is what happened in my head:  “oh, do I really look like that? why did I choose that top / neckline? my arms look fat! does my tone of voice always sound so harsh? is that how my mouth moves when I talk? I wonder how I look when I eat? ewww! look at me — I am fundamentally flawed and unlovable! I look just like my sister when I do that… no wonder I am single! how could someone watch me talk or eat or merely look at me every day and still want to be around?! it is simply not possible. I am destined to die alone. with ugly gnashing jaws and pursing lips. aaarrgh!”

Attractive? Not so much. Irrational? Decidedly. Unique? Not at all.

I suspect there are very few of us on the planet who actually enjoy watching video of ourselves talking or eating or doing much of anything. Even more than a photograph, video brings out the self-conscious, self-critical voice in all of us. Regardless of how we look or talk or gesture or carry ourselves, our inner critic is the great equalizer. I suspect even Hollywood hotties feel this way. Take Eva Mendez, for instance (because I’m pretty sure she’s one of the sexiest women on the planet):  does she like the way she looks when she eats on screen? is her inner critic as obnoxious as mine? or is she just used to it by now? did acting lessons or professional training teach her and other starlets how to look good talking and eating? or have she and these other leading women just learned to silence their inner critics or not watch?

I’ve been a part of bigger shoots in what now seems like a previous lifetime. There was professional lighting, film shot from the most flattering angle (and it is so much softer and more forgiving than video), air-brush applied make-up and super-hold hairspray, a stylist to drape my wardrobe just right… And, oddly enough, after all that external manipulation, I felt perfectly at ease and natural!

But right now, there is an unflattering video of my talking head out there on the web. I’ll have to live with it, because it’s part of a larger scheme representing positive forward movement in my life. Let’s just hope I can afford the full crew next time…or get used to myself!

have I mentioned what my mother thinks?

My mother has just popped in for a visit… I’m not sure whether I’ve explicitly mentioned this or not:  my mother thinks Chi-guy rocks. Why?

Because I told her what happened in Chicago last Labor Day Weekend. I told her that I’d been flirting with a guy I’ve long known, that I was pretty sure we were going to sleep together and that, although I’d made my interest known, he patted me on the knee, told me he liked me and bid me goodnight…potentially the single most humiliating experience of my life.

Her response: “So you finally met a decent man!”

To which I might ask, “what kind of mother-f$#%ing c@#%-sucker would let a girl believe he was good to go and then turn her down?”

Even having seen a photo of “The Hammer” (yes, I’ve actually showed my mother), she thinks he must be pretty great. (Of course, anyone who’s seen the hammer thinks he’s pretty great!)

But let’s take a step back and analyze this train of thought:  it would appear that my mother, who has never once met or spoken with Chi-guy, thinks he is fabulous based only on his refusal to sleep with me. Because of some weird “he liked me” whatever thing that was going on with him. Which struck me as very high school at the time.

So let’s consider the fact that most of the men in the world have not slept with me. And this fact is not due entirely to refusals, but also my own good sense. In fact, while Chi-guy might tease me about being easy, this is not entirely the case. True, I’ve been probably too honest with him about my post-divorce escapades… yet I am, in fact, very selective.

There are an awful lot of men I haven’t slept with. To be sure, I haven’t slept with most men. I haven’t even slept with most single men within in a given desirable age range and aesthetic within a five-mile radius. Does this make them all fabulous potential mates? According to my mother’s reasoning, one might think so…or perhaps it might only if they turned me down.

Chi-guy laughs at all this talk. He has suggested that I should certainly consider allowing someone else to make choices for me, given the poor judgment I’ve exhibited in the past. (But good Lord, so has my mother! And, let us remember, Chi-guy’s marriage also ended in divorce.) Were I to delve into the topic of arranged marriage, it could take several posts. So, for now, let’s just say that I will happily accept the consequences of my own choices…I think.

is he “the one”?

I’ve written a few times about looking for “the one,” that special person with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life.

But I want to be absolutely clear about something:  I don’t think there is just one possible mate for me. I’m not looking for some ridiculous, incredible ideal; I’m looking for something real.

Sometimes dating, especially online dating, feels like searching for that sort of needle in a haystack. Yet I don’t intend to search the world over, holding out, looking over the shoulder of whoever I’m with, thinking someone more perfect or better for me is just around the corner. And I won’t just settle for the next bloke to give me a modicum of attention, either.

Rather, I think there are any number of men out there who might make an excellent companion and co-conspirator. I don’t need them all. I will happily commit to just one.

And even though my list has gotten more specific, I really see my guy being at any point along a spectrum of awesome qualities. He could be kind of bookish, or maybe he’s into architecture (Brad Pitt style), or he might collect those little vinyl figures — he’s probably got a geek streak a mile wide! I’m attracted to dark-haired guys…and I think bald guys are hot, too. Oddly enough, most of the men I’ve dated in my life have been percussionists, even if only in high school band…

Most of all, “the one” is the guy who is happy because I’m happy. He supports me in choices that serve my highest self, and he loves to see and make me happy. He loves my receptivity, strength and appreciation.

It’s sort of odd that I’m writing about this now, just as I’ve put my dating life on hold (in favor of a whole slew of personal projects I’ve elected to take on — in addition to my full-time job, single parenting and a yard that needs attention). In essence, rather than attempting to date all the wrong guys I’ve been meeting online, I’m going to date myself and devote some time to me. But I suspect he’ll show up when I’m not looking anyway, and I’ll know him when I’m confident in how I feel.

what changes once it’s final?


As usual, I checked in with Facebook in the morning before I left for work. Status updates from Chi-guy tend to be few and far between, so I noted with interest his comment about the cold, rainy day being an appropriate backdrop for the kind of day he had planned. I wondered if this was it…

Divorce is something I’ll never really find a way to rejoice. Even if it’s absolutely the right thing and the best thing for all parties, there is no way for me to view it wholly as a win-win. It’s a moody or melancholy occasion at best. And so I made a mental note to call and check in this evening. (Again, “super friend” mode…)

As it happened, we texted back and forth a few times throughout the day, and he confided his newly (legally) single status to me late in the afternoon. Does this change anything? Not really. We still live in different cities, find each other attractive and flirt. But nothing’s really different, right?

He acknowledged that it’s been an emotional day. He was comforted by having his daughter with him for the evening and overnight. And he generally seemed in good spirits having had, as he pointed out, “some time to get used to the idea.”

So maybe it’s his candor and openness, or his sense of humor — we seem to laugh a great deal together — but those are things we’ve shared for months. It seems they’ve always been there. Perhaps it’s that he’s genuinely available now in a way that he wasn’t before.

Whatever the case, I’m telling you one thing for certain:  this man has never been so sexy!

how is life better now?

About seven months ago…

Chi-guy and I were in my hotel room, on the bed, fully clothed. He said, “I just don’t understand what about her life could be better now… without me.”

I was a good six months ahead of Chi-guy’s divorce timeline. And I’d had time to process my feelings and make decisions before asking my ex to move out. (One of my girlfriends, a therapist, has often told me, “Grief does not give credit for time served.” Some days I’m pretty sure she’s right.)

I thought about Chi-guy’s question for a long time, and here’s what I think based on my experience of being a single mother and homeowner:  Life is certainly not easier or necessarily better now that I’m single parenting in addition to all the other responsibilities and obligations I’ve been managing, for the most part, alone. I can’t just call and say I’ll be home late because I’m going to join some colleagues for happy hour. I can’t just stay late at the office because I need to put in some extra time at work. It’s much more difficult to make plans. I basically have every other weekend “off.” I drop my children off at the bus stop, and pick them up from child care after work, losing 30 – 60 minutes of work productivity per day in the process. I’ve got to cook a balanced meal every night. I have to shovel snow, mow the lawn, take out garbage and sort recycling.

But the exhaustion I feel in trying to meet these constant, everyday demands is offset by no longer managing the emotional drain of living in an unfulfilling relationship. I was lonelier in my marriage than I am single. Living with someone who would not (or could not) demonstrate love or commitment (at least not in a way that met my minimum requirements) provided constant reinforcement for every insecurity I’ve ever had. While this forced me to grow and heal in many ways, it would have been more life affirming to have chosen a more supportive partner.

And when I realized that, even if I did all the counseling and emotional work I need to fix myself, my spouse still wasn’t going to change anything about himself, I gave myself permission to admit failure.

waking from a magnificent dream

This morning, on the verge of sleep and wakefulness, I dreamt / saw this vision:

I was at the edge of the arctic, standing on what I thought was solid ground. I placed a stake in the ground, and suddenly realized that the apparent earth I’d been standing on was a floating chunk of ice, drifting out to sea — like the hungry, solitary polar bear you’ve seen in a documentary.

There was a moment of panic as I realized I would be lost, cold and alone, adrift on the frigid sea. And then, a mere breath later, as I found my balance on this gently rocking ice raft, I looked around and realized the sea was full of people like me:  I was drifting into a community of free-floating individuals, none of whom looked cold, alone or afraid. In fact, they were smiling.

Another deep breath…and then I knew I didn’t need to be afraid, either. I felt welcome.

my shit, your shit

My ex used to describe me as Teflon; nothing sticks. He wanted to push blame and responsibility for everything wrong in our relationship onto me. He also described my personality as swinging wildly between Deepak Chopra and Leona Helmsley. Frankly, I’m actually somewhat proud of that description — it makes me sound such a unique combination of serene and fierce!

Through it all, I developed a great sense of clarity when it came to “his shit” and “my shit.” We all bring it in to relationships, and the best of us own our own baggage.

Yes, I screw up. I don’t always do things right. But if you’re willing to point out to me where I’m going astray, I will happily take stock and try to do right. My ex wanted a mind reader. I went about my business assuming I was being a decent partner until he blew up about my not arriving home before six each evening or some other offense that I might have remedied eons ago, if only I’d known it bothered him. Truth be told, I would have liked to learn how I might have been a better partner to him. It might have helped me in future relationships, as well.

He made interpretations about me and my actions that were so far removed from anything I said or meant or intended that it was crazy-making! In other words, he heard my words or saw my expressions through a filter that had nothing to do with me, but then assumed that meaning was fixed, forgetting that there is intent and tone and nuance to consider.

I was reminded of all this over the weekend, when he picked up the children, criticized my housekeeping and told me I hadn’t created anything in 15 years. It was tempting to tell him about the 130 odd posts here on this blog, among other things. But let him learn the hard way or remain blissfully ignorant. He may still get a rise out of me, but I’m able to care a lot less about it than I used to.

Bottom line:  I’ve got plenty of shit. I uncovered a lot of it all by myself. But I sure wish I’d had a partner who could have helped me see, heal and shovel more. And I’m sure hoping I can find someone more encouraging and life affirming, who will let me know directly when I misbehave, with whom to share my future!

spring status update

I think I thought I knew what I was looking for. I think I thought I was ready to meet someone special. But the more I put myself out there, the more I realize how cautious and self-protective I am, and it seems that all this dating business is a lot of work.

I mean, there have been some guys with whom it doesn’t seem like work at all — in fact, those are the ones I’ve mostly written about here. Chi-guy and more-like-it come to mind. I think I could talk to either for an eternity without getting bored or having to manufacture the next topic of conversation. And yet neither really put the moves on, either…and a guy’s got to express a little bit of romantic interest for this to work.

Other guys I’ve met have been much more eager to touch me, kiss me, do the more “dating-like” things with me, but they haven’t been as easy conversationalists. And, when one is considering the importance of long-term companionship, the ease with which conversation flows matters.

Still other men have proven to be incredible flakes. One instant messaged me to ask if we could meet that very evening, and then removed his profile completely only moments later. In fact, a few have removed profiles in the midst of a dialogue, which I find somewhat strange. (Though I may be about to do that very thing myself…)

The healthiest and most satisfying relationships I’ve had have begun as friendships. But I’ve seen a great deal of dating advice that cautions against hoping that a friendship will ever lead to more. Furthermore, it seems a little off to put oneself out there on a dating site and then suggest that one is interested in developing new friendships. That sounds a little too disingenuous — like friends with benefits. Which is not what I’m looking for. (Though I could go for a little sporting action while keeping a watchful eye for Mr. Right.)

When I step back and look at the bigger picture, it feels very funny to me to acknowledge that my most significant post-marriage relationships have been with Max and then Chi-guy. I actually talked about Max with Chi-guy, who asked me “So what exactly happened between you and Max?” “Nothing,” I answered, “we developed a beautiful flirtatious friendship that helped me find myself again.”

And there are those who ask what happened with Chi-guy. The same answer is true…nothing happened. We’ve developed a beautiful flirtatious friendship…

But a girl can always hope!

why I’m doing this

Ira Glass on creative work

I’m here, writing nearly every day, for these simple reasons:

  • because I must write
  • to discipline myself to write daily (or almost daily)
  • to prove to myself that I can commit (where previous efforts toward that end have failed)
  • to not suck
I’ve always written, just not as regularly or creatively as I’d like. And I think Ira’s quote sums it up pretty well.
p.s. You can find the original poster here:  http://forr.st/~9OF

on developing dating clarity

Earlier, I wrote:  “The brilliant thing about failure is that, with time, it brings about great clarity. It is because of the experiences I’ve had — my failed relationship, my attainment of a mediocre position in my career — that I now know more clearly than ever what is truly and deeply important to me. I have a fairly well-developed grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses, and have discovered what makes me feel whole, fulfilled and alive. I am grateful for these lessons learned.”

I am grateful for the lessons learned, but I find myself laughing at this sense of clarity I seemed to have for a moment in time. Refining one’s sense of self, sense of other and desires all seem to be ongoing processes. Perhaps at that time I had a great vision for what I didn’t want, and maybe that felt like clarity to me then. It’s the knowing with certainty which direction to go, which next steps to take — in relationships and career — that is the challenge.

Long ago, maybe even before my ex moved out, I began a list of qualities that I’d like to find in a mate. In truth, I probably began developing my list in a somewhat reactionary manner, including the many of the desirable qualities my ex lacked. Or any qualities in direct opposition to those he possessed. Whatever.

As time went on and I began to see the beauty in the world again, I saw more wonderful qualities to add to this list…

And then I worked on myself and spent some time acknowledging what I know about me and what I need and what I know I want, and I added more to the list…

By now, I have a pretty clear picture. Yet, I continue to meet, interact and spend time with men to keep refining and adding clarity. And, though I have silly notions about what kind of car he might drive or what clothes he might wear or how tall he might be, I do genuinely recognize how little importance those things carry. The substantive stuff has to do with the way he thinks and carries himself through this grand life journey.

In other words, I’m listening very closely to the language he uses and how he expresses himself, observing his manners and witnessing my own feelings when I’m in his presence. Most of my list is about truly noble qualities, rather than external factors such as looks or cars or career or income.

My dating experiences continue to inform this list, especially as I consider the type of man who might integrate into my little family. And I think this is particularly true of men with children. For example, I went out with one cute, quirky, computer geek who has twin boys who are younger than my children, one with ADHD and the other on the autism spectrum. I could see loving a man like this. I could even see welcoming challenging children into my heart. But I would likely view trying to integrate such a bunch into my mellow family as too disruptive to my own children. So add that to the list…

My last post was about resonance and dissonance — the things that we can vibe with or not. The thing is, I have a pretty broad, open mind. And I often allow myself to be talked into things. But I know what I like, what resonates. And if you try to persuade me to go out with someone who’s not a match, I’ll probably be convinced to give him a chance. It’s just that in the end, I usually find out that I was right to begin with.