so…what’s changed?

When I think about where I was just over a year ago, I marvel at the transformation that’s taken place!

Then, I was beginning a new romance on the shaky legs of a newborn colt. I so needed to be liked, to be loved… It was a beautiful, healthy relationship that fed a hunger inside me in all the ways that I needed. I am so eternally grateful for that!

Now, I have more confidence, acceptance and contentedness than ever. I’m not looking for anything — I mean, except for that physical itch to be scratched. And I’m pretty okay with that.

In fact, I’m feeling a sort of holistic peace settle over all aspects of my life. Yes, I work my ass off! Yes, I run around trying to balance that with the parenting, housekeeping and social life. Yes, I wish I had more time for me — to exercise, read, write, play… But I love what I do, I feel challenged all the time, I find time to ride my motorcycle, socialize with friends and do some of the things I enjoy. My life is far from perfect — far from ideal, even — and, yet, I am more content than ever.

So this is how happiness feels!

keepin’ it casual

For the first time in a long time (and maybe ever), I’m seriously exploring embarking on some casual, physical relationships. Yes, I meant that in plural.

Sure, I have many friends — male and female — who’ve had casual relationships with more than one person at a time, but I’ve just never had it in me to a) be casual and b) enjoy more than one partner in any given period of time. As I’ve explained before, I’m more of a serial monogamist. What’s more, I’ve always enjoyed the relative physical safety of being in exclusive relationships, where I know (or at least trust) that my partner’s also monogamous.

So what’s changed?

As much as I’m enjoying the men I’m meeting and thinking they’re great guys, I just can’t get interested in a relationship with anyone. And it’s finally dawned on me that the common denominator is me:  I’m just not emotionally available to engage in a relationship. I don’t have the sort of energy to want that just now. But I’m still capable of being flirtatious, engaging, a good friend and physically alive. Or, as Dan Savage would say, GGG (which, if memory serves, stands for good, giving and game). So perhaps, for the first time in my life, I may be an emotional match for having casual encounters.

It’s my predeliction for falling for guys with whom I share physical intimacy that makes me think I should not limit myself to one. I suspect there may be a certain amount of practice required to not let it mean too much, and having multiple partners would certainly require that sort of practice. I think.

As for the physical risks involved…well, I believe they can be mitigated with certain precautions. And, in fact, those are the very kinds of precautions I will soon need to begin discussing with my children as they mature. I’ll consider it research, so that I can speak with authority.

Now, if only I can figure out how to pick up men!

you’d think we’d learn…

I’m not sure why this popped into my head today, but it kind of gave me a chuckle.

A guy friend of mine was telling me a story about how, when a client of his needed a very specialized sort of service, he referred her to another buddy. Just days later, he learned the two of them were dating. The tale was only slightly more elaborate than that and, meanwhile, my friend was shaking his head in disbelief, like this whole dating-a-client thing was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard!

Which is when I asked, “Um, yeah, and right about a year ago, weren’t you doing that very same thing?”

He sheepishly admitted that he was guilty, and his facial expression was acknowledgement enough of its disastrous ending. I never did get the full story, but I thought, wow, by this time in our lives, shouldn’t we all know better?!

(This, by the way, from a man who wouldn’t ask me out…even knowing I liked him. Okay, some of you may think I’m a little whack, but I’m not the sort who causes damage. Breaking up with a client could have serious side effects!)

“You don’t get your honey where you make your money,” the old saying goes.

Actually, if we’re honest, many of us have met a romantic interest through some sort of work relationship. In fact, my wasband was someone I met while at work…and just look at how that ended!

I’d like to think you could all learn from my mistakes, just as my friend clearly wished his buddy had picked up a lesson or two from him. But, truth be told, most of us insist on learning those lessons for ourselves, making all the mistakes we need to, some of them repeatedly. Something about the prospect of finding love drives us to take such crazy risks…I mean, the upside could be incredible!

So we all act the fool at times…and I guess that’s just another of the cosmic jokes that makes this life interesting.

it’s all about the energy

The city in which I live is still very much a small town in some ways, and I’ve come to expect to run into many of the same folks over and over. So, when invited to a really fun work / social party thrown by a few awesome guys / companies in their funky, mod work space, I was already anticipating running into a ton of fun people I already know.

Aside from being welcomed at the door by a guy friend on whom I have and off-again / on-again crush, there were really two highlights of the evening for me:

First, as I told my guy friend, “I’m dying to meet your brother, because he is such an acerbic bastard on Facebook that I already know I’ll love him!” When we were introduced, I explained to this man why I’d been so eager to meet him and he laughed, “yeah, I get a lot of that.” But the genuine and surprising pleasantness was that this man, who appeared large, gruff and potentially intimidating, and who is always — as far as I can tell from the comments he posts on common friends’ status updates — a perfect sonofabitch, had the warmest, friendliest, most open energy imaginable. He was not at all the curmudgeon I had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, I would have adored him as a curmudgeon, as well. Instead, he was as you might expect to find Jerry Garcia or the famous ice cream Ben and Jerry:  fulfilled, successful, creative and positively oozing loving vibes…a sort of teddy bear, who you felt immediately drawn to hug. Without the tie-dye. Think Buddha with a 70s porn ‘stache.

There was something exciting about this encounter for me — that someone could be so acerbic and witty (occasionally coming off as condescending or sarcastic) while so clearly happy, content and loving. It was a big aha. After all, I’ve been working to balance my own energy for years — and I’d finally experienced that which I’ve been trying to achieve (in my own unique and feminine form, of course) — the perfect balance of loving-kindness and irreverence.

My second fabulous experience of the night was running into a long-ago colleague who is now part of an up-and-coming band. Let me set this up:  He’s tall, good-looking and has the sort of smooth, sexy drawl with which he could easily and simply talk my clothes right off…if he weren’t married (and to a super sweet woman, to boot). I used to have a huge crush on him! So it was a wonderful surprise to learn that he’d had a crush on me, too, back in the day. (Even back then, when I was being the worst human I’ve ever been — too much alcohol, drugs and unhealthy relationships.) And dang! He’d have been ten times the husband mine was, though I probably couldn’t compare to his wife. He sweet-talked me for a good, long while, suggested I manage his band, promised to look for eligible men for me and gave me the best hug ever. His energy was so warm — I never wanted those moments to end!

It was a great party with a ton of awesome people, but those two special moments illuminated a critical realization:  I’d choose a man with great energy over great looks any day of the week. And therein lies the bummer of online dating:  had I seen a photo of my friend’s brother online, I would have been unlikely to want to meet him. In real life, I’d kill to meet a single, available man like him!

Now, if I can get my energy to match all that bliss, I’ll have no problem attracting it!

living apart together

I have at least two friends who are divorced or going through a divorce and have chosen to continue living, at least for the immediate future, in the same home as their exes.

For couple A, this means moving back in together after a year of living somewhat apart. They had rented an apartment — where each had separate bedrooms — and would switch off each week, one living in their home with children, acting as the primary parent, and the other staying at the apartment. Moving back in together  has meant juggling a few rooms around to ensure they have separate bedrooms, though still on the same floor. They continue to take turns acting as the primary caregiver to their children, buying groceries and making meals, etc.

In my mind, this all seems just a little too close for comfort, requiring a level of emotional maturity and commitment to civility that I’m not sure I possess. Or, even if I’d like to think I’m capable of such an arrangement — after all, for how many years did I fantasize about building a studio apartment over the garage for mine?! — I can guarantee my ex is not. But it seems to be working for another friend, as well:

Girlfriend B and her future ex have agreed to continue living in the same home, with him taking up residence in the basement and she upstairs with the children, sharing the common spaces on the first floor. They complicate their lives by housing various extended family members — her aging mother, his adult children from previous relationships (i.e. one-night stands) — in their suburban mcmansion. Meanwhile, he has a girlfriend and she is in a serious relationship with an old boyfriend (who is also going through a divorce). These extra-curricular activities are kept out of the children’s sights, although there are times Dad’s been caught with another woman’s photo on his mobile phone or has stayed out all night.

While I often claim to be falling-off-the-left socially liberal, and while I freely acknowledge that children can thrive in all kinds of alternative family structures — provided they have love and boundaries — I am baffled by all of this. When pressed, my girlfriends insist that this is the best arrangement for their children and has saved them the undue stress of their parents living apart. For now…

…because arrangements like this are unlikely to last forever, especially given that girlfriend B has plans to spend the rest of her life with her current beau. And I would assume she’s eager to begin a newer, presumably happier phase of her life as soon as possible.

As for me, as much as I sometimes still buckle under the weight of being a single parent, breadwinner and homeowner, I am glad for the relatively clean break. Sure, it took six months for my ex to move out (even after years of stressful togetherness), but now the children eagerly look forward to their daddy time and make plans for what types of toys to keep at his place and what to keep at ours. I’m pretty certain they’re more well-adjusted this way than had we continued to live under one another’s noses.

We managed to find the arrangement that was, if not ideal, then as close to right for us as could be managed under the circumstances. And I look on in wonderment at those who make the above “alternative” relationships work.

What do you think — could you or do you live with your ex? What did you find was right for you?

a little danger

The most memorable part of high school graduation was the bonfire and party late that night at one of those middle-of-nowhere deserted rural properties located just off a series of gravel roads and known as simply “the poor farm.” Seems every small midwestern town has one, which may or may not even have outbuildings or the protection of tree cover. I’ve no idea how any of us knew how to get there, but get there we did, as though led by some internal homing device to the desired destination, trouble. We were not “bad” by any standards:  we experimented a little with alcohol and cigarettes, as so many young people who’d gone before us. Nothing more exotic.

But, in this particular instance, I was uncoupled, having recently broken up with my prom date and longtime boyfriend. And the deliciously bad boy on whom I’d had a crush (off and on since third grade, mind you) was there sans girlfriend. I followed him back to his car to get more beer and somehow found myself making out with him, leaning against a car. It was a gloriously satisfying make-out session — he was a great kisser! — which was only enhanced by the disgust it was clearly causing my ex boyfriend as he stood by the fire and looked on.

I’ve matured in many ways in the past two-plus decades, outgrown my sadistic streak for the most part — and, yet, all along the way, I’ve found myself drawn to bad boys. In college, these might have been the older students, the dope smokers, motorcycle riders, guys with piercings and/or tattoos. After college, there were a broader variety of substances involved. My wasband was a classic bad boy, who smoked whatever came his way, rode a motorcycle without a helmet and was, ultimately, disinclined to follow a few too many laws for comfort.

In other words, by now you’d think I’d know better. I’ve been meeting and dating some very nice, mature men…who mostly bore the living hell out of me. You see, I still need a little danger. And that need is a part of me that I’m going to have to embrace, because it’s not going away, as much as I’d like it to. Okay, really? No, I don’t want it to go away.

Because the kind of danger I yearn for can come in many ways:  it could be he has an edgy sense of humor that keeps me on my toes or is “scary smart” or drives fast cars or bikes or is an artist or plays in a band or owns or runs a business. It could even be someone who pushes the limits sexually (i.e. moves really fast or is more experienced in ways) or is into role-playing.

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t want to put myself at physical, health or emotional risk by entering a relationship with someone who’s unstable or genuinely dangerous in any way. There are ways to mitigate risk with safety equipment such as helmets; a man can be a combination of warmth, kindness and irreverent bullshitter; he can take smart, calculated risks. But I do need a little bit of that thrill, a little bit of swagger, a little bit of danger — combined with genuine, loving decency — to get excited.

And I’m going to embrace that as part of my own unique beauty.

…and then date night got weird

I’m keen on perceiving trends lately…I mean, I’ve always been keen on perceiving trends; it’s just that now I’m much more aware and able to spot them in my own life. So what the heck is up with all the dry guys? I seem to end up going on more second, third and fourth dates with guys who do not drink at all. My last boy friend was sober, and so was my Chicago crush.

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, and I certainly don’t want to date some guy for whom alcohol is the center of his fun and entertainment. Sure, I talk of w(h)ine and cheese with the girls, but neither wine nor beer nor cocktails are the focal point of my social interactions (though I certainly do appreciate how they lube things up…).

All of these dry guys have a story, which they typically volunteer pretty early on in conversations — they seem to want to get it out of the way so that it’s not one of those big, lurking mysteries, the proverbial elephant in the room. So when I’d been on date four or five (not really counting anymore) with a cute, funny, sweet guy, and we’d talked about wine, etc., but he no longer drinks, I finally said:

“So you used to drink; you don’t anymore. Everyone’s got a story. What’s yours?”

And then date night got weird. We were in his car at the time. He took a breath and said, “The last time I drank, I was with my wife. I must have had a lot, because I blacked out. I don’t think I’ve ever, at any other time, blacked out. And when I woke up, I was in jail.” He did not elaborate further, aside from to say that he has no idea what really happened. It was implied that his ex accused him of something…

“Yikes,” I said, not entirely sure how to respond. I felt uncomfortable and awkward… But I didn’t feel afraid or concerned for my safety. Should I have? In fact, we went out for dessert after that.

I guess for one thing, I feel pretty confident that I can hold my own — that I am capable of maintaining my own boundaries — and that I project a certain amount of confidence. Part of projecting confidence is that “walk with purpose” business that self defense folks will tell you about — it simply makes people a little less inclined to think they can mess with you…posture, attitude. I hope I’m expressing this adequately without sounding completely full of myself. Said another way, there was nothing about being in this fellow’s presence that made me feel physically intimidated.

Second, I’ve lived enough to feel as though I’ve got a pretty good bullshit detector / am an okay judge of character. The men I meet these days are honest and decent human beings. I don’t think I’d even be attracting them if they weren’t. And I’m pretty good at calling a bluff. I’m not sensing a well of anger percolating under the surface with this dude — or any other explosive emotions waiting to come out. He seems pretty well adjusted…of course that could just be the months of therapy that followed whatever happened that night…

But perhaps the real reason all this weirdness didn’t send up any big, red flags was because I didn’t see things going anywhere anyway. I mean, so far, we’d seen each other enough times for him to be pulling out some much bigger moves than he had been. He was a good kisser, to be  sure, but I wasn’t dying to rip his clothes off or anything (which good kissing is wont to inspire me to do). He’s rebuilding his life somewhere in some far corner of suburbia, and I’m living my mostly already rebuilt life in urbania. In other words, he’s too far behind my curve. I just don’t have the energy to be there for him as he goes through all the rest of his stuff.

And so it’s not going any further because I didn’t see it going any further anyway, not because of some messed up situation…and certainly not because he doesn’t drink. Still, I gotta say, that made for a pretty strange date…and I’m not sure I want to go through with too many more of those!

so much, yet so little

I keep coming up with many ideas about which to write — I have so much to say.

Still, today is a solemn day of remembrance, a day in which there are more important things to contemplate than my sorry-ass lack of a dating life. I’ve read through Facebook posts from friends who were traveling or living in New York eleven years ago. I can still feel the bewilderment and fear I felt that day…and to honor those feelings and to honor loved ones whose minds are closer to NYC than to my little realm of self-absorption, I’m going to call it a night.

I’ll drop back with more later this week.

working deep

There’s a recurring theme I’m discovering in my life as of late:  I’m working deep.

Every issue I uncover through applied kinesiology, massage and other body work is an old or deep wound to be healed. This is good. It means there’s nothing recent left in my body, no residue of the more recent pain of marriage gone awry.

Sure, I’m still working on myself. Every so often I uncover an ache or pain that needs to be dealt with…but it’s either current or something from way back. As I peel back the layers of my own personal onion, I feel I’m getting closer to the center, closer to wholeness, closer to peace. And as I resolve old traumas, I know I’m releasing the likelihood that I’ll continue to draw that pattern back into my life. Or, another way of saying it:  I’m healing my karma.

My dating life has waned as I realize that I’m still not ready for a relationship. I want to have my best to give and, even if I’m not 100% there, I want to be closer than I am just now.

Having said that, the universe works in mysterious ways. If I were to meet someone, if something developed naturally…well, I’m open to the possibility.

you’re doing it wrong!

While on my recent girls’ weekend, I shared a few of my dating-gone-awry stories — you know, like the guy with the elastic waistband, the guy wearing those hideous brown shoes (with black pants, I might add) and many, many more.

Finally, one of the women exclaimed, “Wow, don’t you just want to take a guy by the shoulders, shake him a few times and tell him, ‘You’re doing it wrong!’?” Which was immediately followed by the idea that we could go into business coaching men about how to date without making complete asses of themselves.

But why stop there? There are plenty of women who are making mistakes, too! Take, for instance, the single woman some girlfriends and I ran into at the bar the other night. When the three of us noticed she was alone, we included her in our conversation. It all began so nicely, and then…

This woman, who was well into her forties, began to share news of her best date ever, which happened to have occurred within the past several days. They golfed, and her game was great! They dined. They had wonderful conversation. And she slept with him. On the first date. (Okay, to be honest, there was some disagreement among we original three as to whether this was truly a bad thing…but I guess it depends on what you’re looking for.) And, with him, she’d experienced her first-ever orgasm. Actually, she said he’d given her her first orgasm…now that’s love! (failed writes sarcastically).

But wait:  it gets worse! 

She lamented that they had talked about doing something over the weekend and he hadn’t yet called (it was Saturday night). She confessed to mixing business and pleasure by saying that she’d see him at a work event early the next week. And then she said she’d already made him chocolate chip cookies because he happened to have mentioned that he liked them.

That’s when I turned to her and said dryly:  “You’re doing it wrong.”

“What?!” she asked, incredulously. “Okay, tell me more. Clearly I need to hang out with you gals more often!”

Let’s ignore for a moment that all four of us at the bar were single… Suspend your disbelief, as she did, to hear what we had to say:

  • You’re trying too hard to please him. Already. What’s he going to do for you?
  • Don’t invest so much in one great date. Be a little indifferent; let him pursue you.
  • Now you know how to orgasm. It’s not about him; you’re the one who’s awakened your abilities.
  • Leverage him to help your career and see if the relationship thing works later. Or vice versa. Trying to do both at once will give him all of your energy and attention. That’s too much too soon.

Her:  “So I shouldn’t give him the cookies?”

Me:  “No.”

Her:  “But I already have them zipped up in a storage bag with his name on it.”

Me:  “Absolutely not. You can have them around your house and, if he happens to drop by, you can casually offer him one. Do NOT let him know you made them for him.”

Her:  “Okay” (uncertainly).

I left feeling I’d done my good deed for the weekend.

Let me be clear:  I do not position myself as an expert in dating. Like most of us, I can point out what’s glaringly wrong and, luckily, I’ve learned a lot from experience. I was probably in her shoes — trying too hard, appearing desperate — maybe even as little as two years ago. I acknowledge I have much, much more to learn as I embark on my journey of finding a wonderful, nurturing, uplifting sort of partnership.

And, along the way, I sure as heck would appreciate if someone would be kind enough to let me know when I’m doing it wrong!