Monday, September 7, 2015

On Divorce and Dating

Although relatively little time has passed since my marriage dissolved, I have already reintroduced myself to the dating scene. I think it’s something that most newly divorced people do – some kind of weird rumspringa to reintroduce us into the single world. Maybe we’ll choose to return to the safety of our comfortable, if dysfunctional marriages? Or maybe we’ll take the chance on a “fresh start”.

Things in the dating world suck, now, though. I’m sure they sucked four and a half years ago when I went off the market but I was younger and more resilient. Or more frequently drunk. Or the distinctly possible answer is that I had simply forgotten. Forgotten that dating blows big, fat, hairy donkey balls.

Oh, you didn’t know that? You have been living under a rock.

I do think it’s worse now. Not only do we have internet dating sites, but we have Ashley Madison and Tinder.

God, Tinder.

What fresh hell created Tinder? I tried it, I actually did. And there is something super gratifying about swiping right and getting that little spinning match symbol. It’s like speed dating for the internet. But just like everything the social networking has shit on, Tinder has enforced the emotional distance created by two screens, making people feel like the possibilities of meeting another person and having a spark are infinite.  “Eh, you’re pretty great but I have three other intelligent, tall blondes in my shopping cart and I want to try them out first.”

It's the problem with "these kids nowadays", in general. This generation (which obviously includes myself) has never known a time when there weren't a hundred different varieties of literally everything - from deoderant to yogurt to TVs and yes, even their potential mate. They have never known a time when families didn't scatter like seeds in the wind over countries and continents; a time when you marrying someone from the next town over was a pretty big stretch because who's parents house would you have dinner at on Sunday? And I am simplifying it, but there was something different to that time when people's standards weren't miles high because they could look around their church or local stadium and literally see their choices for a mate. 

Now,  you can search the actual whole entire world for someone to meet, and you can narrow down your choices as much as any algorithm will allow, discluding any thug under 5'7" who doesn't brush their teeth twice a day. That is not an exaggeration. 

But I digress.

I want so badly to meet someone "organically", that I sent an email to my friends and family with a list of qualities I am looking for in a potential mate. My list had twenty bullet points including things like patience, intelligence, compassion, liking kids, reading books, cooking, having a talent and being kind. It also included things like "Has a job and a steady income", "has a car" and "does not live with his parents". 

"This is just a list of the characteristics of a good person," One person responded. Which I found sad because I have a terrible time finding people to match this list.

I put it out there that I was going to start dating again. "I REFUSE to use the internet to get a date," I said. All caps.

As it turns out, nobody knows anyone that they would like to set me up with. Not even one single person. It was disheartening.

So I joined a dating website. I am a hypocrite.

Within a week, I had received over a thousand "likes" and something like 60 messages. Within those messages I was asked if I wanted to have a threesome with two guys, begged to go on a date by someone who was married ("Will that be an issue? I promise you'll have fun!"), propositioned to 'make a salary by having a servant or houseboy', whatever that means, and asked if I wanted to make out. One guy simply said, "Nice toes." Most of them started out with a pretty stellar "Hey!" and left it hanging.

Of the men I contacted, only about a half a dozen responded, I assume because of the aforementioned too many choices. I gave my number to one person who proceeded to never contact me again and went on one date with a very nice guy who actually had none of the qualities on my list, which is to say he didn't have a job or a car, or even a cell phone.

I am trying to remain hopeful, however. I decided that my previous stance of "all men are terrible pigs and I don't trust any of them" was not attracting any of the types I am looking for. I meditate a little on my list every night, hoping to bring a positive someone into my life, rather than continue to rush into the arms of those who I actually know are going to let me down. 

Oddly enough, the hardest thing of all is being patient. I'm happy with where my life is. I'm happy with my career, my friends and family are keeping me above water even on the bad days, and being a mother to my son is like pure magic to my soul. I guess the truth is that I don't need anybody, but it sure would be nice, someday. "Someday", sort of like "forever", is one of those vaguely tangible ideas that humans are so blessed to have as an evolved species.

Though, to look at dating now I have begin to wonder if we've really evolved at all...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's, These Days

Every other Friday I am single. Not a mother, not a wife separated from her husband. I am single.

I could go out and paint the town red. I could sleep with a different man each night and stay out until dawn. I could do a lot of things that I just don't - not anymore. See, Friday for me, these days, means something different.

Well - it means two different things really. If I have my son, it means a night of cuddling and cooking dinner and mentally preparing to be away from him for two exceptionally long days. If I am "single", it is a night of doing laundry and food prep and cleaning up the tufts of cat hair that linger in the corners like shy girls at the dance, waiting to be snatched up by the rough wheels of my vacuum cleaner.

I drink wine to get me through it. Sometimes I take a xanax at bedtime to ensure at least six consecutive hours of sleep will occur and I can be rested and present for the two luxurious days with the most important man in my life. Sometimes I go out and I immediately regret it.

I am not the girl I once was.

I am not altogether sad to leave her behind. Occasionally I have the animal desire to go visit her in a short sequined dress and heels that make me tower above the men who would ask to be my lover. I am not dead, after all. It just doesn't feel genuine anymore. It feels obviously painted on - contrived. Who am I now, then, if I am not that woman?

For years, I filled the emptiness with lust. I chased down my knight in shining armor, begging him to lift me onto his horse and live happily ever after. Paris was a wash of men who I loved carelessly, thinking - or never once thinking - that they could somehow fill the void. There were Pascals and Nicolas' and Marcs and Christophes and Nathans and Brunos and Thierrys. My "number" eked up and I stopped counting. Who would be "the one"?

Just one - the one I gave a name to - fulfilled me enough to believe in myself. Just one - the one I birthed from my belly - gave me strength enough to love who I am as a woman.

I don't want to be one of those crazy mothers who makes her son the stars and the moon and thusly makes him hate his mother. I have seen how that turns out, too, and it isn't pretty. But...

But it's Friday again. I'm cleaning the comforter for the umpteenth time because my geriatric cat pooped on it while I was at work. That's what he does now because he's sixteen and suffers from constipation and sometimes it just hurts to poop so he goes wherever he likes. When I am 85 I guess I will probably poop wherever I want to if I'm not feeling well.

This morning I put on a blue rubber glove and laid him out on a drop cloth and I helped him do his business. That's how you help old creatures. My son played patiently with his stacking boxes, blissfully oblivious to the tribulations of an aging animal. I wonder if he'll ever hold me someday, while I poop.

When he was first born and I thought I needed to add formula to his diet he had terrible constipation. I never imagined that I would be so happy to see a poop come out from something in all my life. It warranted a cheer, and sometimes a drink, but usually some serious hand washing all the way up to the elbows. Lots and lots of disinfectant wipes. The moments leading up to the Hurrah were excruciating, though. It was the first time that I understood what it meant for a mother to feel the pain of her child. How many times did I weep to see him crying through the pain? As a brand new life on the planet, he couldn't understand pain, and as a brand new mother I did not know how to explain it to him. My mind extrapolated that moment into the hundreds of thousands of boo-boos and heartaches that he would feel as a human on this planet. This was only the beginning of his life who felt pain and sadness as well as joy and love. So I held him tight, singing or shushing or rocking. I held him until he felt better, because that's what mother's do when their newborn baby is hurting.

The worst thing about single Friday is that there is no one here to hold me. Though there technically is no physical pain associated with it, I instinctually need arms wrapped around me, holding me tight. I wish there was someone to rock me to sleep. Yet I know this is not the time. I know that now the only mother who can teach me about this particular pain is me.

This is complicated, as I have never bothered to listen to myself before and always figured I would be a terrible mother.

When I was a child I never played pretend with my dolls that I was their mother. I had a Cabbage Patch named Rufus (of all things!) and I think I felt vaguely motherly towards him, but in general my maternal instinct was nil. I remember, specifically, the Home Ec class where we were required to bring home a baby doll that cried. It was a newer kind of thing that required you to hold a key in a certain position for a certain number of minutes in order for it to stop crying. This was meant to be some kind of birth control, showing us how demanding a newborn was. It's cry was incessant and loud and shrill.

Mine was broken, though. Or I had to have it for longer than a night. I can't remember the circumstances other than I ended by crying, throwing it against a wall before my mother took the batteries out. Clearly, I was not meant to be a parent.

Years later, I understand how that was a pointless exercise. A malfuntioning doll with a battery is a very poor example of a colicky baby (if that's what it was meant to be) and when I had my own inconsolable child so many years later I had zero desire to throw him against a wall. A real life - your own progeny - has a different meaning and a different sound than anything that can ever be explained. Love tranforms your heart into something that becomes patient in a way that you did not know you could be and your ears become (mostly) deaf to the sound.

That is how I have come to feel that this Friday is a sucessful one. Even though it began in a latex glove, forcing rock hard feces out of one animal and bathing the mushy, teething poop off of another, I know that my life is full and my heart - though sometimes tired and aching - is full of love. There are few moments to weep about being lonely and fewer moments to wish someone would rescue me.

Someday, though, I certainly hope I will have a loved one who will hold me while I poop.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


verbalternate or waver between different opinions or actions; be indecisive.
"I had for a time vacillated between teaching and journalism"
  1. synonyms:ditherwaver, be indecisive, be undecided, be ambivalent, hesitate, be of two minds, blow hot and cold, keep changing one's mind, be conflicted;

I never for one moment suspected that going through a divorce would be easy. I watch my mother's last divorce rip her security from her at the age of 53, no less and fully expected an upheaval. I don't know, though, I guess I thought that because it was mutual things would be different. I thought that because I had seen it coming I was emotionally prepared in some way.

In a way, I was. 

"You're so strong," people say.

"You're really taking this so well," say others who don't know me as well.

The truth is, though, that literally every hour of every day holds a different emotion for me. There is no way to predict it because there are no triggers. One moment I could be holding the baby, feeling deep love and gratitude for our time together, and the very next the sun will shift and I will be reminded of the first week I went back to work, holding him while he slept in the big grey chair in his room. He had been desperate to nurse and neither of us was in love with being away from each other all day. 

I begin to cry then because I was once sad to be away from him for eight hours. Now I am sad because I only get to have my child fifty percent of the time.

This morning the sun was shining in a brilliant blue sky. I had rediscovered an old album I loved and was listening to it loudly in the car. My GPS took me down unfamiliar backcountry roads and I my windows were wide open to let the cool morning air in. I felt light. Euphoric.

As the morning passed my mood leveled. I worked. I read the news. I spoke to a friend about her ex-husband and how unkind he had been. In a moment, my mood took a nose dive. As if her pain were mine. Suddenly I felt literally heavy. My face felt slack and empty. I was deeply sad.

It has become prevalent now to talk about Highly Sensitive People. This is a thing now that some psychologist identified as a "real" trait and so society is beginning to take notice in it. An HSP is the type of person who cries easily, offends easily, falls in love quickly and generally has deep emotional states. They are also the type of person who is highly intuitive, incredibly observant and very thoughtful. They are creative and detail oriented. They the odd kid in the pink poncho playing in the back of the schoolyard by themselves, maybe trying to make conversation with the crows in their language. 

I am a Highly Sensitive Person. 

I'm glad that there is a label for it now because of the people who have crawled out of the woodwork to tell me that I shouldn't be so emotional. I shouldn't be so passionate and I certainly shouldn't express it. To be fair, most of these woodworms are men who clearly don't care about who I really am, but having those sort of sentiments shared with me right now is enough to make my skin crawl.

Because right now my reality is more than just being an HSP. It's about every single emotion I've felt - or repressed - in the last five years coming to the surface to say hello. It is being a gaping wound, infected by everyone else's emotions and hardships and becoming part of me. It is trying to heal, believing I have, only to begin bleeding profusely from somewhere else.

I'm going through it the best I can. Most days I do so with grace and have a pretty good mask to lead people into believing I'm doing just fine. Other days I get home to my empty apartment and I crumble. I sit down on the side of my bed, think about whatever it is that day that has chosen to present itself with a smack in my face, and I have an ugly cry. Sometimes a good cry is enough, and other nights it's a stiff drink and some Christmas music. On really bad nights, there is all of the above plus a Xanax and an early bedtime with the curtains closed tightly against what remains of the daylight.

I didn't know that would happen when I moved out. I don't know why.

In this vacillation I am learning to bend, though, I guess. I am learning to feel free to feel and forgiving myself for holding it back for so long. I am learning to be kind to myself. The hope is that, eventually, things will become constant again. The security I had ripped away from me will be reconstituted and I will find balance on my own two feet.

The mere thought makes me light, once again.