perspectives on step parenting

A week ago, I had an intoxicated exchange at a bar that struck me:  I ran into a colleague and we ended up talking about the fun, dysfunction, bliss and mess of broken and blended families. She’s newly a step parent to one child, and is enjoying out-dressing the soccer moms at weekend tournaments and packing lunches each morning. And she freely admits to being too selfish to want more children than her lone stepson.

When I revealed that I had a crush on a divorced man with full custody of his two daughters, she brought up the obvious fact that –were something like that ever to blossom into a genuine relationship — I’d have myself a whole mess of a family. As in four children. As in doubling my brood. And that’s admittedly a lot. It’s something psychologists might refer to as “blowing up the box” — it seems like it would be manageable when you really want to make it work, but you can’t really ever be fully prepared for that sort of change. You just have to grow and ride it, keeping it on the rails as much as you can.

As far as I’m concerned, it would be an absolute honor and joy to take on the additional responsibility and give the love it takes to step into that role.

I didn’t grow up in the sort of home that was the social center for the neighborhood or my group of friends, but I’ve spent time in those homes and always wanted to create that space for my own children — you know, the one where the children are always coming and going and everyone feels comfortable and safe. The home that always seems full of life and chaos. I’m proud of having established some degree of that comfort and safety for my children and their friends (although it’s difficult to compete with the swimming pool down the street for “social center of the block” status).

Further, even though my ex’s children were older (the youngest of four was nearly an adult when we got together), I relished having the extended family, the relationships, the conversations and offering guidance. It’s a role in which I thrived, and I still value my ex-step-children and their relationships with the half-siblings borne of my womb. I was willing to invest in their futures and was — and still am — always available to them. That sense of responsibility comes very naturally to me, and I felt great clarity in navigating the boundaries and communicating the expectations that came with it all. Which is not to suggest that everything went perfectly, of course…

All of this willingness or eagerness to be in a relationship again, to one day form a larger family, isn’t entirely without parameters… I mean, we’ve all got to be able to fit in some sort of reasonable vehicle and have the incomes to support said family and such. I don’t have a great deal of interest in going back to diaper changing or toddlerhood, either. Still, I think it’s easier for me to imagine being in a relationship with someone who has children than with someone who doesn’t.

In the end, it was interesting to find myself in conversation that heightened my consciousness of my own perspectives and where I’m at now in life. I am generally more happy and content, more open and more ready for that next big love — including more children (though not through birth) — than ever. Bring it!

the dangers of infatuation

No doubt if you’ve been reading lately, you’re thinking, “Duh, lady; he’s just not that into you.” And it’s probably true.

I’m doing my best to keep my head on straight and just enjoy the blissful anticipation and agony associated with my not-particularly-secret crush. But the truth is, I’ve entertained so many fantasies that I’ve already decided I like him. And this is what’s dangerous about a situation like that…which is, in fact, infatuation:

Before he’s ever asked me out, before I’ve experienced whether he behaves like a man and treats me like a woman, before I’ve even experienced one-on-one time in a dating situation, my mind is made up that I like him. And that’s not always a good thing.

You see, we’ve done the colleague happy hour thing — and he’s lovely and genuine and always picks up the tab and surprises me a warm hug each time we’ve gone out — but that’s as a colleague at happy hour. I’ve felt a few people out:  he’s as well liked and respected as I suspected…in a professional context.

But the other day, I ran into him and he picked on me. Being smarter than my fifth-grade self, I thought, “this boy likes me.” Yet few adult women really want to receive affection in the form of being picked on. Teased yes; picked on no.

So, if we ever did go out, it would be interesting to see how he behaves toward me in that context. Would he be different or the same as he is every day? And the purpose of dating is for two people to explore whether they have a connection or like each other or their values and desires match. So when one of two have already decided…well, feelings can get hurt.

And that’s why I’m dialing my feelings back, enjoying whatever flirtation or interaction there is, smiling and being friendly, and just enjoying the exciting feeling of having a crush. If nothing more comes of it…well, the sense of anticipation and possibility still feels wonderful, and I may as well enjoy it!

love triangle

I have a thing for a man at the office. It’s odd, really:  He’s not the tallest nor darkest nor handsomest man around, yet my insides turn to mush when I run into him in an elevator or hallway; I blush and prattle on nervously when he chats me up; I thrill at the sound of his voice…

And I’ve no indication he feels anything for me.

Another guy at the office does have a thing for me. His feelings are, perhaps, every bit as strong and real and enduring as mine for the other. And I don’t feel the same way.

Isn’t that just the way of things? We don’t want what is offered to us but, rather, what is unattainable or impossible. (Note to self:  stop believing this nonsense and perhaps it will go away!)

Far too many daisies have been plucked apart, petal by petal, in my imagination; far too much mental energy consumed with musings and fantasies. This confounding desire has driven me to distraction. It must come to a stop.

Were it only so easily done as said! If only all the mental math and magic I’ve invested had a payout at the end! Yet things are always sweeter and better when they come as a surprise, so I shall let go, step back and trust that higher powers have my best interests at heart.

You have my oath:

I shall stop trying to influence the outcome. I shall be a vessel of feminine energy. I shall stop envisioning him lustfully impaling me atop a credenza…

On second thought, that is a rather racy and enticing vision; it would be masochistic not to allow myself that much.

rites of passage

This was the school year during which my daughter first told me she had a boyfriend. In fact, it was the first year she even expressed interest in any boy.

Her boyfriend, who I met on more than one occasion, was painfully shy. He came to dinner and giggled across the table at my son, eyes and body averted from my daughter to his side.

I suspect the whole of this fifth grade “dating” experience had more to do with status than anything else. “Going with” a boy meant being liked, being chosen. It meant being part of a special group, along with her best friends who had also been chosen.

I suppose it should have come as no surprise that, in the last several weeks of school, my girl told me she had broken up with her boyfriend… My daughter called her guy over during recess and told him, “This isn’t working out.” As it turned out, many of the fifth-grade couples had split — all at the girls’ initiation — within days of each other.

The mothers and I sat around after a school event one evening and discussed this phenomenon, suddenly realizing it wasn’t all that different from what we would have done as we reached the end of middle school or high school or, in many cases, college. After all, who wants to be tied down when something new and exciting is around the corner? And, I hate to say it, but especially when that new and exciting thing includes a whole new group of boys, older boys.

Single is the new status symbol…at least until middle school starts.


another online departure

I’ve taken a break from the online thing again…I just stopped checking messages and became bored with it. Further, I wasn’t the new girl any longer. The quality of attention had gone downhill.

Still, out of curiosity, I took a last glance at my top matches before departing, digging a little deeper where I found a fellow interesting. One of those who at first appeared to be a strong match answered some questions about sex this way:

Have you ever had sex with someone within an hour of meeting them?

His answer:  Yes.

Would you ever consider sleeping with someone on a first date?

His answer:  Yes.

Would you still be able to respect someone after sleeping with him or her on the first date?

His answer:  No.

Do you prefer that you or your partner be more dominant?

His answer:  Partner.

I’ve seen red flags before — and sometimes I’ve met men whose questionable or contradictory answers have had perfectly reasonable explanations. Many times, the questions have enough answers so that one or more seems to fit and the answer really depends on one’s mood or perception of the question at the moment.

Still, I looked at this series of questions — and there may have been more of them interspersed that didn’t stand out to me in the same way these three did — and I thought, “Okay. I’m out.” And then I removed my account.

How would you interpret these questions all answered by a single person? Does anyone else read hypocrite written between the lines?

dance with me, mr. adorkable

Here is an attempted re-creation of an instant message / chat session with the fellow who kissed me two weeks ago and then…nothing. Okay, the odd flirty text or so. And this, with the man I shall now refer to as mr. adorkable:

Him:  im such a dork!

Me:  u r adorkable…which is hardly as embarrassing as me practically throwing myself at you off and on for the better part of a year (with no discernible results, I might add)…i can only hope you’ve found it more flattering than repugnant

Him:  on and off?

Me:  mostly on

Him:  top?

Me:  you’re the one with the c in your title…you’re in charge

Him:  my bold advances are always followed by retreat. embarrassing!

Me:  indeed

This exchange took place as I searched a variety of travel applications on my mobile for nearby hotel rooms, fantasizing that we might be able to leave our respective offices early and meet in between for a couple of hours. Alas, it was not to happen.

And so I spent my evening on a date with another less interesting (though nice enough) chap and, while the band played, imagined mr. adorkable’s hand was pressing in the small of my back, our bodies close and that this very public act of dancing, while socially acceptable and appearing to be innocent, was charged with enough desire for it to be considered foreplay.

You see, one of the truly dorky things I happen to know about mr. adorkable is that he has some experience with ballroom dancing…and, while I’ve no formal training, I’m fairly adept at following a strong leader on the dance floor. After brains and status, perhaps the sexiest thing a man can be is confident enough to have (and confess) such an obscure interest — particularly one that suggests that he knows how to move his hips, that he can lead and presumably has a sense of rhythm.

Imagine the fantasy:  We opt for drinks at his place one evening. He turns on the stereo and mixes us each a drink. Something romantic and jazzy comes on…something like “Sugar in My Bowl” by Nina Simone. I suggest he ask me to dance. He takes my hand and pulls me close. The energy between us is intoxicating. We move together, very slowly. I can feel his breath hot on my skin. He teases my lips with his, then moves onto my neck and down to my collarbone. Slowly, with each song, he removes one piece of my clothing. I do the same, first loosening his tie, then unbuttoning his shirt, eventually unbuckling his belt… We are still swaying together in our undergarments as the sky grows dark, parts of our bodies taut with anticipation until, finally, he leads me to the bed…

That, my friends, should explain the dire situation in which I find myself today:  mind in a fog of fantasy, confused about what thoughts or intentions he might have, and with batteries run out. Help.


Finding love at my age is a completely different endeavor than I ever might have imagined. I find myself surrounded by swarms of attractive and successful men — and they all seem to be married. Or gay. I guess, in a way, it’s like it seemed in my twenties…times ten. So, naturally, I’ve ventured online.

And the online game is largely one of filtering. Filtering out the jerks and misogynists for sure, but probably adding in a few too many random and irrelevant criteria, as well. Take, for instance, one of the fellows pursuing me now:  I literally have to force myself to keep an open mind because I don’t like the suburb he lives in, the car he drives, his education or his career. Yet if I met a guy who was as nice and good-looking and seemingly emotionally mature in real life, I wouldn’t place quite as much importance on those things.

Online dating simply serves to exacerbate the filtering, the judgments and the show-me-what-you-got attitude. If I wasn’t conscious of approaching dating that way before (because, frankly, I don’t believe that I did), I sure as heck see an unlikeable dimension of myself emerging the more I meet people online. I haven’t made it easy on most of my dates!

But what I’m really getting at is that I can continually add criteria and easily dismiss dozens of men over the course of a year and then, BAM! the guy who’s short, not particularly handsome, doesn’t live in the city and is not even particularly available (given his custody situation) can simply circumvent all of my defenses — all the criteria and filtering and requirements — and get straight to my heart without even trying. Against my better judgment, I’ve developed feelings — for only the second time in a year (and the first was a miserably failed experiment, I can tell you!) — that cause me to open myself to possibility, to hope, to taking risks, to the willingness and, yea, likelihood of making a complete ass of myself.

Instead of that show-me-what-you-got attitude I find myself copping when I meet a man online, I’m evaluating what I have to offer this fellow, wanting to meet half way, seeing him as he is and caring for him anyway — regardless of where he lives or what he drives or what he looks like — and wondering if any of my gifts might appeal to him in the way that he appeals to me. I’ve been described as a strong woman, and I know I can be a hard woman, as well. But I melt in this man’s presence. And that’s a rare enough feeling for me to take notice.

The problem:  despite his having kissed me recently, I have no idea how he feels toward me. Clearly attracted…

I’ve spent entire days agonizing about it — and, by that, I mean the glorious agony of desire or unrequited love — and I’ve come to a decision:  if the opportunity arises, I will tell him how I feel. I’m not going to stress about it; I’m going to keep on being me. I’ll flirt and be fun and kind, but I’m not going to lower my standards or become some sort of contortionist in an effort to reel him in. Perhaps he has feelings for me and perhaps he doesn’t…no matter; there’ s nothing for me to do about it. Regardless, hearing his voice and being playful with him is the best part of my day.

So I will go on feeling completely, utterly defenseless. Honestly, I suspect practicing this genuine, open vulnerability will be good for me.

a declaration to the universe

Sometimes I need to remind myself why I’m putting it all out there — and this is one of those times:

I believe that truly loving and truly being loved is the greatest freedom we humans can achieve. (Contrast this with the attitudes portrayed by singles in the media, that marriage “ties us down” or we “give up our freedom..”) To come home to a place where someone is committed to loving, committed to partnership and where one is emotionally safe to express oneself fully seems healthier and even more natural to me than living singly, even if it is a lot of work. (Dr. Phil calls this “a soft place to land.”) The specific challenge is finding someone matched both in compatibility and desire to create that sort of relationship. “Met and matched,” as a relationship counselor might say.

Further, I believe that creating this safe, supporting home environment is what’s best for our children. So, even as I am trying to be the best parent I can be, it strikes me that the greatest single positive change I could make in parenting my children is to remarry a loving man, create a family and demonstrate an emotionally healthy, committed relationship.

I continue to work toward readiness for that kind of love and partnership — not because I believe I need to be perfect to find it — or even better than I am now, for that matter, but because I think trying to be our best, most loving, most devoted selves is what separates us from the beasts. Without this sort of seeking, what is the point or purpose of our lives?

So, even as I confess to being completely smitten with a fellow who planted his lips on mine a week hence, I continue to keep my focus on what’s important:  finding the man who demonstrates that I am, and a relationship with me is, a priority. To be honest, I don’t automatically suspect this fellow will do that, but I remain hopeful and open to the possibility.