pros and cons

The fellow I met this weekend was once charged with several felony counts of aggravated assault. It’s a long story but, according to this gent, he was falsely accused and a victim of police brutality. He offered to bring along papers that show that, after a legal struggle of several years, all charges have been dropped with no conditions.

I suppose this brings up some interesting questions of personal safety — e.g. if he brought paperwork proving he was exonerated, how would I know it wasn’t forged?

At one point in our conversation, he said he was surprised I’d agreed to meet him after hearing his story over the phone. Well…he seemed genuine and honest. So I asked him how he would know if I am who I say I am, and whether he’d like to see papers proving that I am single.

The truth is that there are a lot of wing nuts out there:  sociopaths, psychopaths, professional manipulators, compulsive liars…I could go on. (My mother, who is reading a book entitled The Sociopath Next Door, might warn me to be on heightened alert.) But, at some point, you’ve got to go with your gut and give someone the benefit of the doubt, or you’ll never get out of the starting gate. By the time we’re forty, whether never married or divorced, we’ve all got a little ‘splainin’ to do. There are few among us without some sort of a past.

I think the more interesting discussion we had was about what, on the surface, might look appealing to another. Briefly, this gent’s a salesman…he was not at all shy about letting me know that I should find certain facts about him appealing:

  • He is single, never married.
  • He has no children.
  • He is financially stable and successful in his career.
  • He does not drink.

Also, to his credit, he has a southern accent, good manners, brown hair and eyes, and an infectious energy and enthusiasm for living. He is both interesting and interested.

Yet, as I told him, it would be impossible to tell whether his never having been married was truly a pro or a con. After all, I explained, divorced men — in my experience — have gone through something so incredibly humbling, something requiring such deep introspection, that they may be more prepared to know the hard work truly involved in nurturing a successful relationship. No doubt they enter new relationships with few romantic illusions.

And then there’s parenting…

He graciously conceded these points…and, then:  “I just want to find someone who’s crazy about me and who I’m crazy about!”

Alas, it could be hard not to go crazy for someone with that kind of innocent, idealistic and perhaps naive enthusiasm.

You should know that this gent didn’t give me his last name before we met, though I typically insist. While on our date, I told him that he would give me his last name before our date ended, so that I could Google the monstrous allegations against him. He cocked a brow. I smiled and said, “It’s a choice, but I think it’s one you’ll want to make.” He laughed, showed me his state-issued driver’s license and told me what to anticipate learning via my Google search.

When I did get a chance to look him up, his arrest and allegations merited only a few column inches on page five of a minor newspaper. And those allegations, as written, sounded like a bizarre fabrication anyway. I have to confess that a part of me was hoping for more…as in front page, above the fold, Miami Herald or better. Exoneration in the form of a death row pardon is, after all, far more dramatic and exciting than your run-of-the-mill dropped charges. Heck, My Cousin Vinnie looks more dramatic from my vantage point (which is not at all meant to diminish the trauma this fellow experienced at the hands of poorly trained officers of the law, a night in jail, legal fees, the stress of facing charges that could result in serious prison time, etc.).

At any rate, since we’ve talked twice and exchanged several text messages since our brief coffee date, I suspect I’ll be seeing him again. And it’s possible that all this drama and danger associated with his alleged criminal past might make it all the more interesting!

my weekly dating round-up

It’s been an interesting week, so I’ll share a few highlights:

  • In chatting with the boy in the next cubicle earlier this week, he referred to a woman as “high maintenance.” Thus, yesterday, in the midst of some major venting (surely steam was coming out of my ears), I asked him if I was high maintenance yet. He replied, “There is a formula called the sexy/maintenance slider. Both factors have to be weighed in determining whether a woman is high maintenance.” In summary, he created a PowerPoint slide (I know, HOT!, right?!) to illustrate that I am so sexy that it would be impossible for me to be high maintenance. Highly subjective…but at least I got that goin’ for me.
  • I shut down my online dating profile again. Here’s why — and another reminder for all the women out there to mind their safety: Apparently, my user name was too similar to another moniker of mine out there in the interwebs…I never really thought about this, though I’ve always followed the usual guidelines about meeting in public places and never having someone pick me up for a first date. Anyway, some enterprising fellow (who was obviously interested enough to dig) discovered more about me than I would be ready to share. I suspect this is perfectly normal — we’re all curious and it’s natural to want to find out more about someone who interests us. But we usually reveal these endeavors at appropriate times, as a comfort level is reached… This guy, who (for various reasons) didn’t interest me anyway, endeavored to send an email (I didn’t receive it) to my personal email address without my having offered him said address, and then told me about it in a message on the dating site. This felt unduly forward and very creepy and, frankly, I felt violated! It’s quite possible that he could know where I live…and I’ve never had any interest in meeting him. I will be minding my personal safety closely… Lesson learned: choose a user name that in no way resembles any identifiable names or characteristics that another might be able to associate with you!
  • Before all that, I checked a message on my mobile phone and a gent from my online dating site, seeing that I was online, tried to IM me. This gave me the sudden realization that, all those times I thought I was stealthily online on my data phone weren’t really stealth at all…and, having a bad habit of keeping multiple browser windows open on both my phone and computer without realizing what I have open has probably made me appear to be a stalker, too! Gross. What can I say? My girlfriends and family want to see who I’ve been chatting with or meeting. No wonder I scared that really cute one away! I’m a complete techno-dork! And I mean that in the most technologically incompetent way.
  • Finally, I’m delighted to report that I am less than an hour from meeting someone who seems genuinely interesting and genuinely interested in me. He TAKES INITIATIVE and has called me wanting to talk more than once and asked me out. There are moments he seems very “in earnest” and a bit nervous. Still, yay for masculine energy! (Still, I’m going to let a friend or two know where I plan to meet him in case my body is found in the river days from now…)

getting to know you…

…getting to know all about you, getting to like you, getting to hope you like me… I love this song and the musical it’s from, The King and I. Dating is supposed to be about having fun and getting to know people — hopefully, eventually getting to know someone special.

So this may sound kind of weird:  I schedule the kind of dates with guys that are the most low-pressure, the least likely to have any sort of romantic element, that are…well…mundane. Frankly, I think that’s the best way to get to know someone, to see if they can make fun out of nothing, to see if running errands can be entertaining, to see how they navigate everyday life. I enjoy conversation, making fun with words and dialogue, and seeing how my date behaves toward clerks in stores and hospitality workers and strangers asking directions on the street.

I don’t think I did this “boring date” thing consciously at first…I mean, when you’re just getting back out there, you don’t give some guy you’ve never met your Saturday night anyway, right? But I’m starting to see other advantages to this preference.

Consider The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, for example:  put a girl on the island of Bora Bora and I can guarantee you she’ll fall in love with one of the attractive men around. The setting alone is enough to create a kind of euphoria, and then there are all these singles, who have nothing else to do but look lovely and woo… Everything is lovey-dovey until they’re off the island, off the show, and back in real life…where it all falls apart. These relationships — infatuations built on scenery and alcohol and candlelight and once-in-a-lifetime adventures — are destined to fail. So I’d like to have a slightly clearer view of reality before I let my heart get carried away.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the candlelight and romance and all, and I want those incredible adventures, too, in time. But I want it to unfold naturally, because it’s something we both want…not because of the scenery.

I got my back

So that same chap who suggested I’m over-analyzing all of this, well, he said something…I should say emailed (and, heavens! I do much prefer to actually talk in my relationships — phones are okay, but nothing beats the face to face!) that has me thinking. I haven’t been obsessing over him or anything he’s said, mind you; I was merely meditating last night as I was drifting off and had one of those flashes of clarity that made me go “hmmm.”

First, let me reiterate that I don’t normally share my blogging habit with men to whom I’m attracted. This one, more-like-it (in case you hadn’t guessed), just seemed open enough, strong enough, in the sort of field where he gets the whole creative process thing. It sort of slipped out, I guess. I was hopeful that he wouldn’t take it very seriously…after all, I don’t.

So we’d been flirting a bit and he’d offered to give me a massage sometime…never followed through…and so, in his email, he mentioned that he’s really tempted, but hesitant because he thinks I might interpret that as… And here’s where I have this incredible clarity around the situation:

  • His role is to do as he chooses, push whatever boundaries he wants and, one would hope, to be authentic and honest and communicative in the moment.
  • My role is to mind my own feelings and boundaries, be as authentic in the moment as I can be and, after that, however I interpret his actions is my business. How we react or respond to others has less to do with them and more to do with us. And, thank goodness, I’m at a point in my life where I want to have dialogue (rather than the last word), where I want to build bridges and understanding.

You may recall that I’ve been through the whole marriage counseling thing — and with a counselor who had an excellent reputation. Still, after going through sessions, being called out on my bad behavior and watching as my ex was called on little or none of his…I actually ended up going to individual counseling to deal with the marriage counseling. It would go like this:  We’d have an acrimonious couples’ counseling session in the evening. The next day, at noon, I’d talk with our counselor on the phone to try to re-interpret or process what had happened the night before. (This was great — I got all kinds of juicy information during these talks — but nothing that helped us with our marriage, only stuff that confirmed why it was unlikely to ever really work.) And then I’d go see my own counselor to work on myself and try to get over what felt like an emotional hangover from the couples’ counseling.

My point in recounting this is that I have professional advice as a basis from which to say it… The single biggest take-away I got from my counselor was this:  I am responsible for my happiness. I am not responsible for my partner’s happiness. In fact, she went so far as to say, “It’s your job to make him do the right thing.” And I asked, “Even if he resents me for it?” She replied, “How he reacts is not your responsibility. Let him feel resentful. At least in the end he will have done the right thing.”

This may seem obvious to any emotionally healthy adult but, at the time, I was so in the weeds of my unhealthy relationship that it was a revelation. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t have to try to “make” this man (who was depressed and perpetually unable to be happy) happy. I moved forward, worked on myself, took care of the home and children as best I could, and began implementing those boundaries I’ve written about. I’m not saying I did this all “right” or anything, just that I got the concept.

So, while I can appreciate a man who respects me enough not to want to mislead me, the concern might be a little misplaced. Just ’cause some attractive man is rubbin’ on me doesn’t mean I’m going to let the situation venture into something that feels uncomfortable to me. It’s not his responsibility to worry about how I might interpret or react…because, finally, I’ve learned enough to say with conviction:  I’m a big girl…I got my back.

the pity party’s over

Admittedly, I was feeling like a bit of a brat earlier this week. The moment I got over my bad mood, my focus turned to other tasks at hand…namely, some baking and other preparations for an event to benefit a neighborhood family whose son has cancer.

In other words, I am reminded once again that I am blessed beyond measure. My children are healthy. I am healthy. And that is enough for me to be content.

to hell in a handbasket

Mostly I’ve been feeling great lately — confident and optimistic — so it’s been frustrating for the past couple of days to full stuck in the mud, overwhelmed…as though this place is going to hell in a handbasket.

Yesterday, I came home to towels and sand everywhere and a messy kitchen (thank you, nanny!). Naturally, as I tried to clean up, the disposal crapped out. Suddenly, I felt completely overwhelmed…both tactically and financially! I don’t have the time to accomplish all I need to, nor the resources to hire it done. I’m paying for a car and a new roof for the house and the garage, full-time summer childcare, I’m trying to find a way to take the children on a road trip, and I just don’t need any more stuff to go wrong right now. Between working full-time and parenting full-time and scheduling the oil changes and dentist appointments and haircuts and planning a vacation and the weather, when in the hell am I going to cut the grass, much less fix something I don’t know how to fix?!

I hate feeling this way…and, worse, I hate myself for allowing myself to feel this way!

It is at this point (in my self-pity) that I realize that there is a part of me, deep inside, that resists trying to solve this problem. I simply expect a man to come along and fix it. That’s what my father always did. And that was certainly a part of what I expected of my mate…who is no longer my mate, of my own volition. I am a run-of-the-mill, Disney-variety damsel in distress, a caricature! (Enter more self-loathing…) It was not always entirely this way…I was all about diving in to ownership (in every sense of the word) when I bought my first condo…

I am nothing if not resourceful, I tell myself, so I reach out…My social networks tell me to try hitting the reset button on the bottom of my disposal and, if that doesn’t work, get an allen wrench and try to give it a crank to see if it gets unstuck. Reset fails. There are several sets of allen wrenches in the basement, I’m certain, yet I can’t find a single one, much less an entire one of those handy-dandy sets I know I’ve seen down there before. And I do mean plural…my father has seen to that.

And now, though I asked him to leave, this is when the anger and resentment at my ex percolates back up:  I am alone without my male rescuer. The basement is a complete mess, and he just left it that way. I can’t find anything! I don’t know what he’s left here or what he’s taken with him. I blame him for allowing the children to take over the “workshop.” I blame him for the disposal not working. I blame him for my being in this completely overwhelming project of a fixer-upper house…this was the house he wanted above all others, while I wanted to keep looking. There, I said it. Clearly, despite efforts to that end, I have not yet purged all of the baggage of “us,” and I have not entirely accepted full responsibility for my life. I am a victim. (Ewww…that feels so gross!)

Yes, the self-pity came on strong. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and say, “I can’t do this!” And then, maybe, through releasing the fear, doubt and hopelessness out into the atmosphere, it would dissipate and the fearless woman in me would prevail…

As I happens, I made a healthy dinner, got a start on the lawn, a helpful neighbor fixed my disposal and I gave the roofer a final check for his work, which will be complete tomorrow. And, while I can’t be entirely sure that check won’t bounce, my outlook is so much sunnier now!

am I over-analyzing all of this?

It was recently suggested to me (by an attractive man) that I might be over-analyzing all of this relationship stuff… I suppose that could be a fair supposition for a reader to make. Here, I’ll share part of my response…

“Indulge me as I share a story:

When I was pregnant with my daughter and began (around the 7th month) to feel the sheer panic that comes with the realization that this lovely little floaty bubble of bliss would, at some point burst, and then a head the size of a cantaloupe was going to come out of (and would likely tear to shreds) a much smaller hole / passageway…I went to the birthing classes and watched the reality birth stories on TLC. One thing I observed was that so many women would, in a moment of contraction agony, utter:  “I can’t do this.” And I remember thinking they were ridiculous! I mean, we’re women, our bodies are MADE for this! I had my doula, my (drug-free) natural birthing plan, my body had been in the best shape of my entire life when I got pregnant, and — even though I was occasionally visited by the sheer terror I mentioned earlier — I was confident that I would be champ at labor and birth.

Fast forward to several hours into labor, when the pain got ahead of me and I could no longer ride it like a wave, and I could no longer relax or rest between contractions…this is the thought that came into my head:  “I can’t do this.” And I thought it for a bit, meanwhile putting on my brave face and trying not to clamp my jaws together on the nearest arm and finally I, too, like those women on the shows, uttered those words, “I can’t do this.” Predictably, everyone around me jumped in with, “Yes you can!”s and other encouragement…but words or encouragement weren’t what I needed. What I needed was to speak my doubt aloud, release it of its power and move on…

I guess my blog is kind of like that. I don’t over-analyze everything…I think it, write it, release it and move on. Yes, there are areas of my life in which I’ve tried to be intentional…and then released those thoughts out into the universe. I’m probably more introspective and self-aware than many, likely more honest and bare…and that’s what I needed to do with this — I needed to explore being honest with myself, being completely vulnerable and to commit to writing all the time. (Frankly, I’ve had enough of this failed relationship introspection already — I’m ready to get out and live again!) Meanwhile, this space is also a great venue in which to cop a bit of a diva attitude that I rarely display in real life. So…if you’re going to read it, please try not to read too much into the very limited view it might offer…

While there are certain things that I’ve shared here that remain true — e.g. I do, at some point…maybe a few years in the future… want to be in a life-affirming, committed relationship — what I think I’m ready for has changed constantly since I began writing about it. One day, I think it would be peachy to find a lover who is willing to explore and share new heights of pleasure, and who might also be a confidante. Another day, I find I’m holding back my natural sensuality because I don’t want to lead with physical attraction, I want to find an emotional connection. And at another time, I think the most lovely thing in the world would be to enjoy a conversation, maybe hold hands, maybe smooch a little (okay, not gonna lie, a make-out session sounds spectacular!). I want adventure! Or a little candlelight and some romance! I’m making peace with all of the different aspects of myself and integrating my energy. I feel lighthearted and playful and whole in way that I can’t claim to have felt in years. It’s wonderful…I’m living in the present moment. And I feel amazing!

My entire adult life has been lived in shades of gray, sometimes with too few guard rails… After being pretty lost for a bit, grasping for anything that seemed solid, while being conscious about what I’m trying to create, I am wide open to allowing things to unfold, to “let go to the mystery”…in fact, I’d prefer to be surprised. At this moment, I have no pre-conceived notions about what my next relationship might be like or how long it will last…I can only suspect (given my parenting schedule), that it’s likely to unfold slowly. And that’s okay with me. I’m navigating moment to moment… Whatever I think I might want in the long run, the only way to move forward is to take small steps — meeting people, going out, having fun…”

Then I wrote that I have fun with him…and to please not mistake reading the blog for experiencing / knowing the woman who writes it.

What do you think of that, my kind readers?