the Chicago trip Chi-guy wrap

Having mentioned my Chicago family vacation and seeing Chi-guy, I feel somewhat obligated to provide a bit of a summary. And it’s been a few days since my last post…

First, let me divulge that I know my feelings for Chi-guy have been deeper and stronger than they’ve ever had reason to be. I have such love for this man, this flawed fellow human — it’s almost as though we’ve gone through some terrifying, exhilarating experience together (i.e. parallel divorces) that’s bonded us…except I’m not sure whether he feels that bond, at least not in the same way. At any rate, he is just a regular man. Amazing in some ways — witty, playful, so smart, sexy, handsome — and flawed in others:  overindulgent as a father, cynical, and sometimes his humor veers toward mean funny (as I once described as douchebag humor in this post about him).

Let me also say that I’m done chasing men and have learned to let go of expectations. I had no thoughts that anything romantic or physical might happen — particularly since I was traveling with children (one of whom refuses to go to sleep in new / strange places without me). Still, there was a twinkling of hopeful “what if?” in the back of my mind…

Here’s what didn’t happen:

  • Romantic interludes or overtures:  he did not seek me out after our children had fallen asleep to wrap his arms around me and make-out (fun though that might have been)…but we did get to spend a little quality time chatting on his deck. And we didn’t enact this shower fantasy of mine.
  • Falling more deeply into infatuation:  I love this man. I don’t even know why, really. But it’s the sort of agape feeling of wanting the best for another and letting go. I have no pangs of yearning or wantonness for him (that I think I probably did several months ago).

So what happened?

  • We drove to his place and he dropped us at our downtown hotel, since the parking is free and convenient in his neighborhood.
  • He gave us a couple of museum family passes to enjoy some of the grand attractions in the city.
  • He picked us back up a couple of days later and took us for dinner, and then we had a sleepover play date (involving that horrid creation, the inflatable air bed) with him and his daughter.
  • He was ever the well-mannered, charming, generous man I’ve come to know, while still maintaining his boundaries.
  • His omitting the presence in his life of a girlfriend to me and a play date with me to her got him into a bit of hot water (with her, not me).

to be or not to be…friends

I didn’t go on an online dating site because I want to meet new friends. Ultimately, I want to meet the man with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life. And I’d like to have fun doing it! I would like to meet someone to date, to have fun with, to enjoy a little romance.

And yet, the best relationships begin with a strong foundation of friendship…

So what does one do when there seems to mutual interest, and then one backs off and offers friendship?

It would be disingenuous for me to say that I’m looking for new friendships in this manner. Instead, getting the brush-off and then being asked to be friends feels more like being on “keep warm” or “back burner” status. In other words, not something I enjoy.

I want to be on the front burner, the burner turned to hot, feeling a little sizzle!

Independence Day status report

Today, Independence Day to be exact, seems like as good a day as any to report on the status of my own independence…and I do have some good news to report:

Today I felt that old, elusive feeling…the feeling I recall feeling at thirty (a decade ago), after I’d purchased my first condo and luxury car, knowing that I was self-reliant and could allow myself abundance. I felt a glimpse of that in-the-flow, abundant feeling, completely fulfilled, with no need of anything more than what I have here; complete in and grateful for all that I am and all that I have.

Wow! Seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way, and recognizing it brings the realization that I’ve spent too much time in the past couple of years feeling inadequate, damaged or lonely… in a word, like a failure.

The hidden message or blessing in this is that I don’t feel like I need a man in my life to be complete. At some point, I’d love to find a co-conspirator and partner, but right now I feel happy to be single me, happy to be a mother to my littles and simply filled with joy at being present.

Sure, I’m still dealing with some lingering pain, loneliness and resentment…but even acknowledging that is an act of further letting go, further allowing myself to heal.

And here’s where I come back to the dating thing. At this very moment, I don’t care if I date any time soon. Sure, I’d love to go out and have some fun — and to have someone fun with whom to have fun. But I do have those people — I have girlfriends. Many of the men I’ve met online have proven flaky and seem to not have taken the time to heal themselves. I’m not saying that as a judgment, because I’ve been pretty wishy-washy, too.

What I am saying is “do the work, people!” It’s worth it to heal yourself and be whole before you try it all over again.

on drunk dialing / texting

Last weekend…

I’m home from a Memorial weekend barbecue and I’ve had two whole drinks which, when one imbibes as much as I do (rarely or not at all), can render me word-slurring inebriated. And of course my natural instinct is to dial up or text Chi-guy or more-like-it or some other obscure item from my past. So I thought I’d see if I can write instead and make a go of musing about what sort of foolish crap might come out of my mouth if I actual did dial someone up.

First of all, if I did dial Chi-guy, would he be amused or annoyed with me? He no longer drinks at all, remember. He is charming and sweet and long-suffering, as far as I can tell. And, the last time we were together, he suggested I order an after-dinner drink…which were listed under “Happy Endings” on the menu. I thought briefly about suggesting that he might give me one instead which, frankly, might have opened that whole discussion a little less awkwardly. In any case, Chi-guy treats me with a certain combination of “you’re so sweet!” and “you’re a total slut!” and condescension. I know that sounds bad, but it’s actually a great balance of hysterically funny and positively charming, without being syrupy sweet. Sure, I’d watch the tone very closely if ever I were to spend time with him, but the jabs that could be mean are so well timed and outright hilarious that it’s difficult to imagine that he could ever mean harm. That said, a couple years into a relationship, one views things entirely differently…

If I texted more-like-it, would he respond? I haven’t told you that we communicate regularly, weirdly. What is that, anyway? What is that “I know you’re looking for something special, so I’m out. Hey how’s your week going?” WTF? A man who wants to be friends, really? So why are we always talking about sex? Especially when his online dating profile clearly stated he didn’t want to be friends with benefits? Yeah, I’m a little confused about that one.

But all that’s cool. Here’s why:  because I’m not chasing men. If a guy is interested, he’s going to be absolutely certain I know. Hell, even the guy in the adjacent cubicle at work has made clear he finds me attractive, even without saying anything out of line. If anything, it’s me who’s exhibited the appallingly bad behavior. I am simply not cut out for corporate HR departments…how the hell would I deal with me in a similar situation?!

So thank you for listening to my mojito-induced blather…and for keeping me out of trouble! Good night.

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.

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!

where have all my friends gone?

The upheaval in my life in the past year and a half is not limited to divorce, single parenting, quitting a job and starting a new one. It’s social, as well. In fact, I can hear The Jayhawks singing right now…

If you asked me today who my best friends are, I’d list the usual suspects. Most are my single girlfriends (you know who you are), and I’ve been able to reconnect with and lean on these girls much more than when I was trying to manage a family life, especially a deteriorating family life. So there has been a lot of shifting in my friendships, and not all of it as positive as I’d like.

As you might imagine, with small children, much of my family’s socialization was right here in the neighborhood, with other couples who had children of similar ages. Some, I was surprised to find, seem a bit suspicious of me following the split…as though perhaps my ex went on a bit of a public relations campaign before moving several neighborhoods away.

In fact, this PR campaign was confirmed by a local wife over a bottle of wine one night. It wasn’t as though she came out and told me he had done this; rather, she hung around until after the other women had left and literally grilled me. In the process she happened to mention that my ex had been over and told his side of the story. And I doubt he stopped there.

Most adults recognize that there are two sides to every story. I was hoping not to have to air my grievances about certain of my ex’s betrayals, simply because I preferred to take the high road. It was over; the damage was done. Dissing him was not productive. In fact, one neighborhood wife had the grace to say, “We saw in your ex the man you fell in love with.” While I knew it was a lie, I appreciated her generosity and refusal to talk bad about him.

I mentioned other broken relationships in the neighborhood — one of those to whom I was closest moved away and, after having spent several years as an at-home mother, now manages half of the parenting, a long-distance relationship and a full-time job. It’s simply become harder to stay in touch. Another close friend moved to the coast. My neighborhood is a lonelier place than it was before.

There is no question that the disruption inherent in divorce extends beyond the family circle and daily life into broader social circles, often making friends feel as though they have to choose, take sides or spare you the knowledge of the party they held last weekend to which your ex (but not you) was invited. And then there’s the couples vs. singles dynamic, where you’re no longer invited to be part of the group because you’re an odd number or a single or you just aren’t thought of by the well-meaning folks thinking of which couples to invite. Divorce forces those around us into an awkward situation.

Recently, I experienced probably the worst possible incarnation that this dynamic might take — its impact on my children.

One of my daughter’s friends invited her to a backyard bonfire and barbecue. As they sat talking about it, my daughter assumed that her brother and I would also be welcome to attend as a list of neighborhood attendees were rattled off. Whispering ensued. I could hear the girlfriend complaining that they didn’t want so many people. This friend has been known to be manipulative and generally prefers to exclude my son, if at all possible. But it seemed there was more…

Later, when we were alone, I expressed to my daughter that sometimes it was a challenge for me to know how to respond to her friend. She agreed. We talked and, as I uncovered more about this dynamic, I had an intuition and asked:

“Did you friend tell you that her parents don’t like me?”

“Yes,” she confessed.

“When?” I asked.

“Awhile ago.”

“Is that why you haven’t been making plans with her for the past several months?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Does that make you feel uncomfortable around her parents?”


My stomach dropped. I was, of course, hurt. I have been kind, generous and respectful of this couple. Certainly, we have had moments of difference as it relates to our parenting styles, but I would never exclude them or treat them differently for it. By far, though, pure rage outweighed my sadness. Regardless of what this couple thinks of me (and they’ve made plain their sympathy for my ex), one would think they’d have the discretion to limit what they might say in front of children. And, while I doubt this couple actually said the above verbatim, they need to know how grossly inappropriate and un-friend-like it was for their daughter to say something like this to mine. How dare their words be used to so callously injure my daughter’s self-esteem!

Add another difficult conversation and more social awkwardness to my to-do list…

Update:  It should be noted that these friends later told me I’d done the right thing (in getting rid of my ex).

musings about Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this weekend. The children will be with their father (until I choose to pick them up); my mother and aunt will be crowded in to my grandmother’s assisted living space, so I am imagining how I might like to spend this special Sunday morning by myself.

Ideally, I would receive flowers. Tulips, perhaps, something seasonable and bright, not too fussy. And I’d grab a latte to go and walk around one of the urban lakes with a friend. Of course, all my friends are likely to be either with their own children or with their mothers, so I’m not entirely convinced this plan will work. (When they’re older, I shall anticipate spa services.)

Might be nice if that friend who gave me flowers and took me for a walk were a gentleman…

Just sayin’.

what happened next (part 15)

Four – six months ago…

If you’ve followed all this bizness about Chi-guy, you already know that I had developed some feelings for him, that he was a hot mess and that, despite a mutual multi-year crush, we never got it on. And even thinking about what happened next makes me want to slap myself!

I became the über friend, the counselor and confidante. We had discovered that our situations were remarkably parallel in too many ways to ignore:  he had lost his job and was the primary caregiver for his daughter while his wife was the breadwinner, just as in my household; he had been using alcohol to numb his pain, just as my ex did; even our (and by “our” I mean mine and his ex wife’s) roofs leaked following the same winter storm (despite several hundred miles between us).

“You know that’s your fault,” I teased.

“Yes, I’ve been told,” he replied.

He told me he didn’t understand why. I told him (as I’ve now written twice) that he should stop asking, because he’d never get a satisfactory answer. He asked me how her life could possibly be better now, without him there. And I told him that it’s not; it’s hard having to be the full-on single parent, especially when you’re hurting emotionally, and to take on all the other tasks that were once shared. Yet the stress is different because the emotional weight is gone. We even discussed Dr. Phil’s philosophy on what women need from men — to provide income and a soft place to land (emotional safety).

I sent him emails and texts and even small gifts. I dreamt about him — dreams that were too real and projected my fears about my own ex onto him — and then worried that those dreams might be real. I called from time to time, and I was there when he needed to talk.

I loved (and still cherish) the closeness, our conversations, his authenticity and candor, yet I hated what had become of us. I didn’t want to be his friend or his counselor; I wanted to be his woman. I wanted to feel that intensely feminine way that I’d felt when I was near him. I wanted to sit across a table from him, listening while he talked, but mostly smoldering inside as I fantasized about crawling across the table, opening him up and licking his sexy brain.

Sometimes we were flirtatious, yet emotional support or commiseration ruled our conversations. After the holidays, he updated his profile photo on Facebook. I could see immediately that he’d turned a corner. I relaxed. I let go of my need to worry about him.

When I caught myself yearning for him or, more accurately, that feeling I had when I was with him, I stopped and replaced the thought of him with “him, or someone even better for me.” I forced myself to create a list of characteristics that my ideal mate would have — even those things in direct conflict with who Chi-guy is now. And I created an online profile and opened myself to dating.

You see, it wasn’t that I thought I was in love with him. Rather, I believed (and still do) that we have a unique connection, a potential of some kind, and we were (are?) missing the opportunity to fully explore whatever it might be or wherever it might lead.

Maybe this is all we get. Maybe we get to have supported one another through a transition. It’s been strangely rewarding (even if not satisfying). But sometimes I still wonder how our story is going to end…

another Chicago trip (part 14)

About six months ago…

While back home, I reflected on how nice it felt to spend time with a man who was a good conversationalist, a toucher and who wasn’t afraid to kiss me even with a sore on my lips. The note he’d left under my pillow was nice, too! True, the dialogue was too heavily weighted on divorce, our exes and our children.

He had mentioned that he liked strong, direct women. So I thought I’d play the part:  I called and left a voicemail, telling him that I’d really like it if he took me on a real, bona fide date when I got to town that weekend. What I meant wasn’t something formal or expensive or elaborately planned, I simply wanted to spend some time together getting to know each other — no exes, no children — just us talking about us. I let him know my best availability was Sunday evening.

I arrived in town Saturday morning. When I hadn’t heard from him by that afternoon, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing him. By the time Sunday evening arrived, I wanted nothing more than a hot bath and room service, so I was actually relieved to not have plans.

I heard from him Monday. His text read, “Sorry I couldn’t be there for you last night. I’m a hot mess.”

I replied, “I know, hon. My heart aches for you.” Even if he hadn’t been telling me where his head and heart were at all these weeks, it was easy to tell by his actions. He was very clearly communicating that he wasn’t ready to move on.

A day later, I got on a plane home, knowing that my last scheduled trip to Chicago — and our window of opportunity — had passed.

Looking back, I still find it somewhat surprising that he didn’t take me up on my no-strings offer. And yet, while it was easy for me to tell myself I was being…um…generous, I failed to account for all the longing I had wrapped up in this. I needed a man’s attention and touch more than I was willing to admit. And I’m sure my desperation was nothing less than terrifying to a man in Chi-guy’s shoes.