my mouth was a bad girl…

I used to be a bit of a bad girl…or at least my mouth was naughty.

I’ll give you an example from at least 15 years ago:  A girlfriend and I were out at a bar, enjoying the crowded patio and looking for a place to sit, preferably with a little shade. We found a couple of guys at a table and they invited us to sit down.

We chatted for a while, and the cuter of the two guys seemed to be more interested in my friend than me. That is, until he said something like this:

“All you girls want to do is go shopping.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I drawled, “I kind of enjoy cunnilingus, too.”

I suppose it goes without saying that jaws dropped. Shock was often my signature move in those days.

It probably also goes without saying that the better looking of these guys asked for my number. We went out once. He was an ass. He repeatedly told me to loosen up, though I felt perfectly at ease. He actually said to me at the restaurant, “Order anything you want.” As if I were planning to order anything less!

Why this story came to mind I don’t know. My head-to-mouth filter still performs less than optimally. But I think it’s nice to be older, because people seem less shocked, less judgmental and more accepting of frank conversation. There’s a more mature fluidity to serious discussions about values and flirtatious discussions about sexual preferences or proclivities. There’s more genuine laughter. In other words, I’m not so shocking anymore; I don’t feel like such an oddball. Either I’m just more comfortable letting my freak flag fly or I’m better at surrounding myself with people who adore me for who I am. And that’s good stuff!

Mack Truck logic

While in a committed relationship, decisions must be made, compromises reached, peace kept, etc. Standard methods of give and take don’t always work, especially when both parties feel particularly strong about something…permanent birth control, for example.

I’d given birth twice, didn’t want to be on the pill and wasn’t in to the idea of having some sort of surgery to prevent another pregnancy. He didn’t want his junk messed with.

We had several civilized discussions, including with friends and neighbors, about the topic… one of them went like this:  A girlfriend stood in our front yard and gestured with her hands while saying, “Oh, come on! She’s pushed a head the size of a cantaloupe out a hole this big — twice! — and you can’t even have a minor outpatient procedure?!”

I thought we had reached agreement…yet the appointment was never scheduled. So I resorted to Mack Truck logic, which goes something like this:  “Look, you have older children and ours. If I get hit by a Mack Truck tomorrow, regardless of whether you re-marry, you’re done having children. If you get hit by a Mack Truck tomorrow, I might meet someone and want to have more children.”

Fast forward to dinner at another couple’s home weeks later. The other gentleman is talking about his vasectomy:

My husband:  “So did you have to shave yourself?”

Me:  “Oh my god, is that what this is about?! You’re afraid of shaving?!”

The next day I scheduled an appointment for him with a urologist by the name of Dr. Hackett. Poetic, no?

I’m not sure Mack Truck logic will work with every man or in every situation. But it made sense to me!

Try it. Let me know how it goes.

put on “keep warm” status

Guys do this to us. They stay in contact, loosely, leaving us on the back burner and checking in every so often, just to make sure we’re still “warm.”

Heck, I’m pretty sure you could characterize more-like-it‘s behavior toward me this way… For awhile, he’d reach out once every week or two just to say “hey,” sometimes to say something suggestive, but not ever to take action. I liked him, still do…but it was infuriating. Infuriating because I wanted him to call and say, “Hey, when can I see you?” or something much more forward.

Some girlfriends and I sat on a patio with cocktails one evening chatting about this “keep warm” thing men do to us. And here’s what we concluded: Why shouldn’t we do it to them?

being adored

In addition to learning to be vulnerable all over again, I find that there’s a bit of an adjustment period to allowing one’s self to be appreciated. Goodness me, it’s sometimes difficult and uncomfortable to accept a steady stream of kind, thoughtful and flattering words, behaviors and attention!  It’s been a long time since a fella has adored me for being me — all of me, which can be a lot! — and one hardly knows what to make of it all…

I find that I have three conflicting (and rather telling) automatic responses to all of this:

  • The first is to be skeptical and suspicious, to wonder if I’m being flattered to some end, or played. But as I quickly rule this out, I wonder:
  • Have I aimed too low? Is this man who seems to adore me putting me on some sort of pedestal? Does he worship me because I’m somehow a better combination of smarter and prettier than he’s dated in the past? (Egad, this appears so narcissistic in black and white!) Stated even more plainly:  “He likes me; what on earth is wrong with him?!”
  • Finally, I have to concede that it’s possible that a kind, intelligent and attractive man simply enjoys my company, respects me, finds me attractive, and treats me as I ought to be treated.

Let me point out that I think it’s big of me to admit the kind of bullshit that I’ve uncovered in my psyche. Here’s the truth: I’ve always gone for really attractive men — often the kind of men who are out of reach, unattainable, narcissistic, or who I somehow end up feeling that I have to chase or do something to be worthy. I may have felt I’d achieved something by “getting” that kind of man in the past (for the time we were together) but, in the end, there was always a part of me that ended up feeling insecure in ways.

This time, it’s different. I know that for a relationship to be successful, I’m going to need to let someone into my life who adores me for just being who I am. I wrote earlier about paying attention to my feelings, observing a man’s behavior and actually putting some of the “dating theory” type stuff I’ve learned into practice. A man will demonstrate the type of person he is. He will show me right from the beginning how he intends to treat me. And I will create very clear expectations.

I see myself doing this in relationship to a beau these days and, against all odds, these new behaviors, attitudes and perspective are coming quite naturally to the fierce new me:  I let him call, plan and make dinner reservations; I allow him to buy me dinner; I expect him to open doors for me and offer me his coat when I’m chilled; I don’t protest when he says or does something kind; I surrender to his putting my pleasure before his own. And I find I’m quite okay with being adored!

getting tested

Woo hoo! It seems I’ve made it past the interview stage, into not only hand-holding and smooching, but also into the stage of frank and mature discussions about health…that is, sexual histories, STDs and how to enjoy these blessed bodies in a way that’s respectful and safe.

My beau brought up the discussion under the guise of talking about dating. I thought we might talk about dating philosophy or have that discussion that two people who’ve met online frequently have about continuing to see and or meet other people. (Which, by the way, is fine with me…because I’d rather a fella meet a lot of people and feel absolutely certain that I’m the one for him.) Instead, he brought up sexual history, number of partners (for the record, I stopped counting more than a decade ago) and STDs.

For a moment, some of these questions seemed rather blunt…that is, until he followed up with, “I’ve had one.”

It turns out he was once exposed to HPV, the virus which, depending on the strain, can cause either genital warts or cervical cancer. Neither of which sounds all that appealing to me. Nor does this virus, which is carried and passed along by so many that middle school children are routinely offered a vaccination to prevent it, seem like a daunting hurdle to a healthy sex life. After all, I would expect that a man wear condoms anyway — at least in the initial stages of a relationship, before longer-term solutions are considered.

Still, there are many questions:

  • Does the risk go away? Is this something that, because he got it, he still has? Or might his immune system have rid his body of it?
  • Have I ever been exposed (I mean previously, by someone else)? Is it possible to have had and built up my own immunity?
  • How is it contracted? Might touch or saliva expose one to risk and how much?
  • What, if anything, might I have been exposed to or be carrying around with me?
  • What else don’t I know? What other questions should I be asking?

For the record, I’ve never had reason to suspect that anything was awry down there. I feel and, by all appearances, am healthy. My most recent relationship was long-term and monogamous…as far as I know. My annual exams have always produced “normal” results. And, since, I’ve had only a few partners and with whom I’d say I’ve had “safe” sex.

But I’ve heard stories, too.

The safest, smartest and most respectful decision I can make for both myself and my partner is to get tested, learn the facts and educate myself as much as possible about all the risks and issues of being sexually active. And that’s why I’ve scheduled an appointment at my OB / GYN’s office for this week. Cross fingers there are no surprises.

the things I didn’t know

I don’t know whether I know how to be truly vulnerable or how to be okay with being vulnerable.

There. I said it. The “v” word seems a little frightening to me.

I don’t know how to confess all my past sins and be completely open and be loved in spite of and for all the baggage and reality of me. What I know how to do is move on, power through, push forward, sometimes as though a bull in a China shop…a bull with a smile on my face.

But I’m learning:  I’m learning how to be soft on the outside and strong on the inside. I’m learning to speak my truth and trust that I won’t be judged for the worst of it, but instead as a complete, whole and sometimes complicated woman. And I’m learning how to slowly step backward and allow a man to move toward me, and to let him think he’s leading this dance.

what does your dating résumé say?

First dates sometimes feel an awful lot like interviews. I’ve recounted the inevitable sharing of divorce stories amongst those of us who find ourselves back on the market, and even single girlfriends in their twenties talk about the pressure to have a good answer to, “why is a great woman like you still available?” (For the record, I have not had to answer that one…yet.) One begins to wonder if the answers to such questions and other details offered are catalogued by our dates as some sort of dating résumé.

The dating résumé is about far more than the length and / or quality of past romantic relationships; it’s also likely to include (in no particular order):

  • success indicators:  career, title, earnings and assets;
  • maturity markers:  children, home ownership and other activities often associated with becoming an adult;
  • domestication:  pet ownership, household skills or hobbies (gardening, cooking, etc.);
  • relationships:  long-term friendships, close and stable family, parental marital status;
  • virility:  physical health and likelihood of longevity — i.e. does he take care of himself?; and
  • miscellaneous:  does he snore? and other such seemingly small but nonetheless grating characteristics that appear innocuous or forgivable through the rose-colored glasses of romance but not after a decade of marriage, i.e. spousal-induced insomnia.

I like to think that my dating résumé looks fairly respectable:  I was in a long-term stable relationship, during which I birthed two amazing children (who no longer require such intolerably high maintenance as might scare a decent fellow away); I earn all right; I own a home (except for the bit the bank owns, which is most of it); I’m usually fiscally responsible (I mean, aside from these past several months)… But, in truth, all this is because I am generally unwilling to casually disclose the real dirt, the skeletons hiding in my closet, that might make me look less than glowing. Best foot forward, as they say…right?

So…I’ve been out with aggravated assault a few times (a moniker that belies his maturity and gentle nature and could, in fact, be described as ironic). He’s forthrightly poured out probably every fault, failing and foible. Even some of his selling points — never married, no children, successful in a job that kept him moving every few years — are of dubious distinction. While I won’t dish about the ungodly long list of damning details, I finally remarked a few days ago, “You don’t look so good on paper.”

To his credit (or perhaps the credit is due his meds), he laughed and agreed. Then, in a move of cunning emotional jujitsu, he came up with even more reasons why I might find him un-datable. And all I can say is “Man, that reverse psychology shit works!” My brain immediately went to, “Oh, well if that’s all, it can’t be so bad, can it?”

Not knowing the details, you might be thinking, “Lord, woman, how desperate are you?!”

Or, like my mother, you may advise, “Well, don’t rule him out…yet.”

What does your dating résumé say?

fair warning

For all of my potential beaus out there, I think it’s only fair that I warn you:  I told my daughter she could get a puppy when I get married.

It wasn’t a promise, really, more like a “when pigs fly” sort of statement…at least at the time.

Yet, somehow, the possibility seems not so far-fetched any longer…

the standard of living

I’m happier now than I was while in a doomed relationship.

Yet I often ponder this question of my standard of living. Is it better? No, though I suppose I thought it would be. I thought there would be some savings associated with not having to support another adult — perhaps some groceries, gas, insurance or utilities. And I thought I’d be getting a bit more in the way of support for our children.

My resources are tight. My time is full, from the time I wake until I crash each night. I entertain less often. I enjoy cooking less now that it’s a scramble to put dinner on the table each evening. I find less time to be active and exercise, and to connect with friends and family. All things that are important to me.

And, yet, with two precious children sharing discoveries each day and a deep sense of purpose, I find this moment in my life rich and full and hopeful.

Those other things that matter? Well…they’ll be resurrected in time.

my, how I’ve grown!

If you look back to when I first began writing this blog, there was a lot of purging and a lot of stuff about the failure of my relationship. It must have been cathartic, because it’s rare that the anger, resentment or blame flares up anymore. In fact, while I’ll confess to anyone that I still care for my ex (he is, after all, the father of my children), I’m detached about it. I would never go back to our relationship or him. When I dropped off the children the other day, he hugged me and told me that he loves me very, very much…and the only thought that came to mind was “have you been drinking?”

Amidst the un-flings and failed attempts to get laid or find romance these past months, I’ve largely healed my heart and re-set my standards. Perhaps it sounds odd that I even needed to re-set my standards…and, yet, I clearly once accepted so little for myself that they were due a bit of re-calibration. And to do so, my self-esteem needed an overhaul. Leaving a stressful job, spending lots of quality time with family and friends, yoga, meditation and a healthy diet have worked wonders. In many ways, I’m restored with a much more solid sense of self. And, while I’m feeling great, I plan to keep up positive momentum on that front.

I’m also getting better at catching myself when I fall into old patterns of behavior. I’ve noticed and curbed impulses to use behaviors associated with masculine energy in relationships with men — if he’s not providing it, I’m not interested. And I’ve dialed back my need to mother people who are (technically) no longer children. I’m grateful to have been able to take the time to glean the lessons of my failed relationship and grow from them. While dysfunctional behaviors that I’m not yet aware of are likely to reveal themselves as I explore new relationships, I’m going to be gentle with myself and my “other,” and I’m going to be a lot better at forgiving myself when I make mistakes. These are joyful discoveries for me — they bring me closer to realization of the woman I want to be.

Perhaps best of all are the great qualities I feel expanding — courage, patience, deservingness, trust, allowance and good humor seem to be blossoming within me. My “vibe” is more consistently positive than ever before.

These are good days. I am enjoying among the best times ever with my children (our recent vacation was amazing — they’ve just reached an entirely new level of fun, interest and expression), and I’m putting into practice so many of the relationship tools I’ve learned in the past several months — even some of those tips that involve relating with men. While I’m not about to report anything, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way things are going!