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it’s all talk

I’ve been trying to figure out, lately, what the point of having difficult conversations is.

I know this is a perspective informed by growing up in a family where there was never any point in bringing anything up, because it would always make it worse, and never make anything better. So I have a deeply held fatalism about the pointlessness of changing anyone’s mind. And in fact–since then, I’ve rarely seen conversation effect a deep change in someone’s point of view.

The racist ex who was racist when we were together–still racist, many many years after breaking up, though we discussed it. Bluntly.

Sexist, anti-feminist relatives: still sexist, still anti-feminist.

Fundamentalist, homophobic, racist, climate denialist relatives are still fundamentalist, homophobic, racist climate denialists.

The people I know who are committed to making the world a better place and already know about injustice are the ones who are most likely to adjust their point of view to accommodate new information, but that’s not them changing. That’s just an extension of who they are, who they’ve already decided to be.

I read all those articles about how to have conversations that change people’s minds, and they’re not convincing. (Ironic, eh?) There’s no scientific method, no experimental design, no quantitative results–it’s all anecdotal just-so stories that reflect the way the authors think it’s supposed to work.

Yet people do change their minds.

I was a fundamentalist, homophobic, racist, deeply misogynistic girl child. I changed.

My relatives didn’t, but I did.

I have some friends who have changed remarkably over the time I’ve known them. I know more who haven’t. Some who have made repeated commitments to be horrible people over decades, and who are no longer my friends.

People can change; most don’t.

How long do you engage with someone?

When do you even bother trying?

When do you stop?

How did I change? Can I even describe that? I was pro-life in grade 9 and pro-choice in grade 12. Was it just that my first opinions were formed by a family I still depended on, and that as I got exposure outside that bubble, I was able to assimilate it? That makes sense, but then why didn’t my cousins? (Of the six cousins on that side, two have made moderate strides away from the super-right-wing awfulness, but I would say they still fall closer to that end a lot.) They also would have gone to schools and interacted with peers who challenged their views and provided new information and perspectives. And it didn’t take.

I had one acquaintance in highschool who was/is deeply misogynistic. He says terrible things about women. He’s the guy posting rape jokes on your timeline and complaining that women are uptight bitches when they don’t laugh. He was abused by his mother; but then so was I, and I changed.

I have one friend who was a boyfriend, who was unbelievably sexist when we first started dating, to the point where I wonder why it was I didn’t dump him right away. I should have. He jokes now that he used to be very Fox News, and it’s true; I joke that he’s my token republican friend, even though he hates just about everything the republicans have done in the past few years. Now when I see him on FB he’s probably posting a cutting rejoinder to a racist comment on a public news feed. He gives me and our conversations a lot of credit in why and how he changed, and that’s nice, but there’s a lot of other people who have had the same conversations with me, and they haven’t changed.

The guys I’ve dated in the last few years who said sexist or misogynistic things then assaulted and/or harassed me. Those statements were an accurate reflection of their views on women, and their actions towards women. At this point it feels like a mountainous risk to engage with a man with those kinds of views; like taking a child’s toy shovel to a stable full to the rafters with manure in the hopes that, at the end of it, you might find a gold coin underneath. And there are so many men with those views.

I went on a date recently with a guy who seemed really nice. He wasn’t super attractive but we talked easily and I was enjoying his company. Until the waiter came by and asked us if we wanted one bill or two, and he said we might order more–even though we definitely were done eating–and then when she was walking by the table made a loud comment about giving her a low tip. I was utterly mortified. “There’s a line-up,” I said; “they probably need the table free.” When he went to the bathroom I apologized to the waitress and asked for separate bills so I could make sure she got a big tip on my order. I know it could be read as everyday borderline rudeness, but in that moment, it felt very much as him putting a woman in her place.

Recently I had a conversation with a guy on a dating app who seemed funny and we were talking well. I mentioned I was going to a dance class and he made a joke about flashdance.

I’ve gotten very tired of stripping jokes. It’s an immediate turnoff. There’s so many ways to take that conversation and the one towards the guy’s boner is just not the direction I want to go.

I told him that I’m not a big fan of the stripping comparisons.

And got back a diatribe about how awful and wrong it was of me to be offended (I never said I was offended) and it should be expected on dating sites for conversations to go that way and that speech isn’t an action so it’s not like he actually did anything (I don’t think I mentioned that this guy is, professionally, a therapist) and clearly I’m going to be offended by everything he says so he’s going to stop talking to me. Red flags flying around like candy at a santa parade.

At least 75% of the conversations I’m in on dating apps die quickly because the guy just won’t stop talking about himself and never reciprocates with a question, or displays any interest when I share something about me. We haven’t even exchanged full names or phone numbers, let alone met, and they’re already slotting me into the Audience category where they are the Main Star of the show. How is that attractive? What expectations do these men have? How is this going to add anything to my life?

I took the apps off my phone. I kind of hate men right now.

(Don’t ask about the ones I meet dancing. They’re worse.)

Dating was a lot easier when I had low self-esteem and a high tolerance for bullshit. I think I had energy for these kinds of conversations and some kind of faith that they would lead somewhere worth going. Now it makes my brain hurt to even think about it.

I have what I think is a FWB. He’s cute. He’s funny. He’s very smart. He thinks he’s one of the good ones–he’ll make comments about sexism or whatever that makes it clear he wants to be thought of in that category–but then he’ll say something victim-blaming about the women in promiment harassment or rape cases and you know, I don’t say a damned thing. It makes me think less of him, and I have not only no faith in the idea that I can alter his thinking by talking to him, but absolutely no interest in or energy for tackling it. Whatever. He’s going to be a liberal sexist. That’s his choice. His reward for that is wondering why we only see each other once a month or so.

At this point there’s no one in my life I talk to regularly who I have major values or human rights disagreements with. They’ve all been polite-distanced to the outer periphery. I feel like I’ve used up my lifetime quota of believing I can make the world better through one-on-one conversations with people who have reached midlife (or later) secure in the belief that other people are less human than they are. Or that they themselves are somehow extra human, and more deserving.

The end result of all of this is that I really don’t have these conversations. Even though I know sometimes it must make some kind of difference, it’s not often enough to make it worth all the work, or all the rage, that goes into having them.

Does that energy come back, do you think? Or have I passed a thresshold where I am just never, ever having a conversation like that again?

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dreams

Last night I dreamed about saving a young girl from drowning in a frozen pond.

All my dreams used to be about wars. I can guess why–so can you, I bet. I was always on the losing side, trapped in some foxhole or rotting cabin, trying to fight my way out. Or I was trapped in a room in a haunted mansion, being pursued by monsters. Trying to figure out how I could fight, how I could escape.

I dream much less about wars these days. Now I dream about little girls.

The first one, I dreamt of a young homeless girl. She asked me to push her in a shopping cart to a park where she thought she could safely spend the night. We planned the route. She carried the map. It all seemed fine, until I started pushing her there. Then I broke into sobs. Please, I begged her, please come home with me. I don’t want to leave you in that park. It’s not ok. It’s not safe. You can come home with me. I’ll take care of you. Please.

I’ll be fine, she said, crossly. She did not want me to think of her as someone who needed caring for. As someone who was not perfectly independent, impervious to harm.

I woke up knowing I was myself, and the little girl; that I kept abandoning myself. That I needed and wanted to believe that I didn’t need caring for, by myself or anyone. That I exposed myself to harm to prove–what? That I could by sheer force of will prevent it from harming me?  I’ll be fine.

This one, there was a group excursion to a pond, in the dead of winter. Snow everywhere. The pond was frozen over. People were playing on it; the ice broke under a little girl, who went through. I tried fishing her out with my bare hand, and couldn’t reach her; the cold was so intense and so real I remember the sensation of it burning when I pulled my hand into the air, held it against me to warm up, then tried again. I kept failing. I found a stick and held it down for her to grab onto, and pulled her out; I wrapped her in a blanket which I suddenly happened to have with me in that way that dreams have, carried her away and called an ambulance. No one else seemed to care. They didn’t stop their playing to check on her, or talk to me. I went with her in the ambulance.

I guess at least now I’m not abandoning her, and she’s letting me help.

  • I broke up with my mother. It’s fine; I don’t miss her at all.
  • I took a years-long break from dating.
    • I can’t say it’s helped me in picking better prospects, unfortunately.
    • It has made those dating relationships a whole lot shorter, since I don’t put up with red flags for as long. It doesn’t feel much better.
    • I’ve discovered that I have an uncanny ability to select the one guy with a traumatic childhood from any random group of men and form an instant connection with him. This results in unstable relationships.
  • I go out every night I don’t have PP to hang out with strangers. Dancing, mostly. Some of them have even become friends. This part does feel a whole lot better. I’m kicking myself that it took so long to start doing something I enjoy so much.
  • A psychologist has told me that she thinks my mother is a psychopath, rather than or in addition to a narcissist. I think she is probably right.
  • PP is still Practically Perfect, but now a teenager

 

I guess it’s a bit reassuring that I can come back after several years away and see that some things that I never thought would change, have changed.

I don’t know if I’m back or if I’m just feeling nostalgic. I guess we’ll see.

breaking up is hard to do

I think I need to break up with my mother.

Except that I can’t seem to screw up the courage I need to get it done. I’ve been thinking it over since xmas, and keep telling myself, ‘well, you don’t want to be hasty. Think about it a little more.’ I’ve been having nightmares about her almost every night, awful ones where I face her down and scream at her every evil thing I’ve ever thought about her and never said, in an effort to keep the peace.

I’ll back up:

Over xmas there was a terrible storm and an extended power outage at my parents’ house, almost a full week. Being a nice person, I called my parents every day to extend an invitation to them to come over, warm up, have tea, a shower, laundry, a nap–whatever they needed. They refused in the main, of course, because my mother “didn’t want to leave the dogs at home alone,” but for three days running they did come over for short periods. The power outage extended over Christmas and I offered to move the family celebration to our house, which they didn’t decide on until xmas day, when all the stores were closed, making it tricky to get groceries (particularly since my dad’s gone gluten-free for health reasons and my mom’s gone vegan for vanity). But we got a dinner up for boxing day, and my brother and his family stayed the night in something approaching warmth.

Now my mother’s new veganism is absolutely obnoxious. She’s acting like a spoiled college student about the whole thing. She’s strident, preachy, and will not shut up about it. The entire three days she came over, it was all she talked about. The chickens she’s sponsoring on a farm refuge. The donkeys. How my daughter should not grow up to be a dog breeder or a farmer (her fondest dreams at the moment, but recall that she’s *ten*) because it’s so horrible and it should be illegal but she could have a wildlife refuge instead. Meanwhile, I was sick, and so was my daughter, but I held my tongue all through until the boxing day dinner.

And at that boxing day dinner, I did something truly unforgiveable: I disagreed with my mother about veganism.

I had a tone, I’m sure, but I didn’t attack her at all. When she said that we are obviously not meant to be carnivores because we don’t have fangs or sharp claws, I said that we should move out of our houses, then, since we can’t build them with our fingernails either. She went on about the teeth again, and I said that while we didn’t have carnivore teeth, we did have omnivore teeth, since herbivores all have gaps between front teeth and back teeth–no middle teeth. Then she said that while we MAY be biologically suited to eat meat, “unlike animals,” humans have compassion and so she chooses not to.

“Just because I eat meat does not mean I lack compassion,” I said.

And she smirked at me, shrugged, and hasn’t said a word to me since.

Keep in mind that she’d just brought over several pounts of frozen meat from 2005-2010 that was no longer good enough for her to eat, but was apparently good enough for me–only if I ate it, I suppose, I would have been admitting to be a bad person without compassion. What a bitch.

A silence of 6 weeks would not be exceptional with her in any case, but this included her own birthday and my daughter’s birthday; at my daughter’s birthday dinner she completely ignored me for the entire evening, and when I gave my mother her birthday present with a “Happy birthday, mom!” she took it, mumbled at her dinner plate, shoved it under the table without opening it, and hasn’t said a word about it. So far as I know, she threw it away unopened. I mean I really have no idea.

The whole thing has wiped away any lingering doubts I had about my mother’s narcissism. Who but a narcissist would decide that someone’s disagreement about dietary choices constituted an attack and a betrayal that deserves punishment and ostracism?

I was angry with her, of course, but I’m furious with myself. HOW could I have let my guard down enough to give her the opportunity to hurt me again? When has she ever showed, in words or actions, that she cares about me at all? Why would I love her? What has she ever done to deserve it? Why should she be entitled to a relationship with me regardless of her behaviour?

I can’t see how I can have a relationship with her going forward, and what’s more, I don’t want to. If she wants to alienate all of her relatives and die in a cold dark room covered in dog shit, let her. (More on the relatives in a bit.)

Of course, this means my daughter also loses her. Not that she’s much of a grandmother–she shows up on special occasions with mediocre presents, but otherwise is not an active figure in her life, and by her choice since it would mean “leaving the dogs at home alone”–but still. We’d also both likely lose my dad, since he goes along with anything she says or wants (unless she’s sulking and ignoring him, at which point I am expected to listen to his endless complaints about it–but I can’t complain to him about her, oh no, she’s been a paragon of a mother). Which means no nearby biological family for her. And how would I explain this to her? “Your grandma is punishing me for disagreeing with her about veganism, so I’m sorry but we can’t visit with them for a good long time? Or maybe ever?”

Over the past few months I have been, very slowly and somewhat painfully, reestablishing contact with my mom’s estranged sisters. Once of them she hasn’t spoken to in decades, since they had a disagreement when I was a teenager. The other she hasn’t spoken to in years, though I don’t know why or precisely when. In both cases, losing the aunts meant losing the uncles and cousins as well, who I’d been close to growing up and lost without ever knowing why. One of my cousins got married last year and invited my mom and I to the shower, but my mother never passed the invitation along and I only found out (from my cousin directly) when it was too late to arrange to attend. PP and I went out for dinner with them last fall, and it was lovely–and also awkward, as they both were so warm and had so many nice things to say about me and PP that I was quite discomfited. I’m not used to that kind of approval and handled it very badly. But in either case, I had the kind of conversation with them that it has always been impossible to have with my parents. Just fun and casual. And my mother’s other sister, whose birthday is close to mine, reacted to our new conversations by sending me a ring my grandmother had given her; it’s the only thing I own from that grandmother.

In both cases I now talk to both of them more in a month than I ever spoke to my mother in a year. And with more warmth. But in all of those conversations, no one mentions my mother; she hangs like a spectre over every word, the bright pink elephant in the room. Every time it reminds me of how I used to fantasize when I was young that my mother and father would die, and one of these two families would adopt me. I shrugged that off as a normal childhood fantasy, but maybe it was more prescient than I gave myself credit for.

My mother is running out of relatives. Out of all of her siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and immediate family, I believe she is only in contact with my dad, my brother, and her own brother. Everyone else has done something to betray her and is no longer welcome in her life. Even my brother, who she always petted, knows she is a lunatic.

So I can’t see any way out of breaking up with my mother, which I am ready for at last. But I worry about how it will affect PP, and I don’t know how to do it.

I know. It’s been forever. But I have to get this out of my head and into some kind of order–so here it is, and if anyone ever reads it, that’s a plus.

So this guy I was dating last year and who some of you know about and some of you don’t–he raped me. No one knows this–besides me, obviously–and it took me ages to figure it out. Not because it wasn’t obvious, but because, classic Maeve, I decided that I was over-reacting and being too sensitive and I should get over it and get over myself for being so upset. Actual thought at the time was something like, “this experience is so much like rape and yet somehow not rape because I know he’s a good person and he cares about me, and yet, it has affected me so strongly! I don’t get it.” Sometimes for a smart girl, I am very thick.
I did not break up with him over the rape. Partly because work was so insane and kept me so busy that I didn’t even have time to think about what happened to me. Partly because I managed to convince myself that it was not rape, only something much like rape that was somehow not rape because he was a good person who wouldn’t hurt me, so I should get over it.
I did yell at him, though–but not at the time. At the time, we had a very calm and mature discussion about how important it is to ALWAYS LISTEN TO A GIRL WHEN SHE SAYS NO, that I don’t say no when I don’t mean it, and he should not ever second-guess or over-ride me when I say no about anything. Would you believe there was a ton of other stuff he wouldn’t listen to me say no about either, and I still didn’t get it? I am giving you this x–I don’t want it–I want to give it to you–I do not want it, do not give it to me–here it is, it is yours–I am throwing it out–why did you throw it out?–I DON’T WANT IT. Controlling and manipulative and really just evil, all in a nice-guy cloak so he can try to manipulate people (i.e. me) into a position of obligation, and then make demands, like for sex. Which was not the situation with the rape, but did happen after the rape, when oddly enough I didn’t much want to have sex with him anymore and he was feeling hard-done-by, so lashed out at me (again under a “nice guy” guise of “but I only did it because I knew you really wanted me to”). That was when I yelled at him.
He then complained about my anger. He had to walk on eggshells, he said. I go for the jugular, he said. Why am I so rude to him? he said.
Believe it or not, this post is not about the rape.
This is backstory. It has absolutely affected me in ways I’m not yet able to discuss or even describe. Though it has taken a real toll on my dating life,  believe me. Not sure what it is going to take for me to be able to trust someone again. At the very least, more time. But this is just context for the story that I am going to relate.
Recently, I was thinking about this, and giving myself a ferociously hard time, because how stupid do I have to be, to be raped and STILL blame myself for being single and unable to make a relationship work? For sticking around and trying to resolve it with someone who thinks it’s ok to rape someone? Why the hell didn’t I run for the exits? In what universe does someone deserve a second chance after they rape someone? And so on.
And I realized that I am always giving allowances for what people tell me their intentions are. If a guy tells me he’s a good guy who means well and would never hurt me, then even when he hurts me, I give him the benefit of the doubt and try not to “over-react.” Which means that in practice I under-react. I stay with a sex addict for ten years, because at least he’s not beating me, he’s not gambling away our life savings, he’s not hurting PP. Oh hey, here’s a guy who lives in his cousin’s basement and quits his job regularly to write comic books that never ever get finished, and who complains about how all the women he’s dated before were shallow bimbos because they weren’t happy to date a guy without a job or any money–he’d be a good life partner. Let’s try this out. How about this married guy? He says he loves me and if I really loved him, I wouldn’t care how miserable I am and I would wait for as long as it takes for him to decide he’s ready to leave his wife. Sounds like a plan. This one who is chasing me all over and won’t leave me alone and is monitoring my movements says it’s just because he misses me; instead of turfing him after two weeks I should date him for three months because, who knows! Maybe I can talk him into seeing reason. And now this guy, who never listened when I said no, talked about marrying me at two months, manipulated me into meeting his family and his kids much earlier than I was ready for, treated his ex-wife like garbage and tried to destroy her life–oh, and bugged her house–and RAPED ME–I haven’t given it enough time yet, maybe we can talk it out, I am so sensitive and over-react so much, I shouldn’t trust my emotions, I should totally trust him instead when he says that he would never hurt me, even when he’s hurting me.
My god. The man raped me. What did I do? I talked to him about communication. I then gave him another chance.
And the Trader. This is where it wraps up.
Even with the Trader, I thought. His stupid mean jokes, making fun of me in public, smiling at me when I was angry at him, constantly pushing my boundaries–and I kept not getting angry and not getting angry because ‘his intentions were good’ and he was a good person who cared about me, and when I did get angry because he worked so hard to make me angry–and he did–then my anger became the problem. My anger! When I didn’t yell at him, call him names, raise my voice–no. I stood there, I looked angry, I’m sure I sounded angry, but I am not hyper-sensitive and I don’t over-react. Someone stalked me and I didn’t break up with them for two months. Someone RAPED me and I didn’t break up with them for three months! Someone cheated on me for over NINE YEARS and I told myself to get over it! I have put up with this job for THREE YEARS, which is two years more than anyone else in my role has managed to tolerate it for–I do not over-react! And I need to never ever tell myself that again, because it puts me in situations where people can actually physically endanger me and I still don’t speak up. From now on and for the rest of my life, I will never ever ever use someone else’s stated intentions to excuse how they treat me, ever again. If someone does something to make me feel like shit, then it’s shit, and that’s that, and it doesn’t need to make sense to them, and I don’t care what they think about it. What someone else tells me their intentions are is now none of my business. If it feels like disrespect, it’s disrespect. If it feels hurtful, it’s hurtful. If it feels insulting, it’s insulting. And my god, even with the Trader, I did that dance for 18 months. Thank god I broke up with him.
I say all of this because the Trader and I have become friends. Or I should say had become.
I should also say that it was an explicit, stated part of our previous relationship that I must never question his intentions. The only thing that could get him angry, he said, was if I did not believe  his intentions were good.
Well. It was, coincidentally, a conversation with the Trader where I was first able to put my newfound resolution (to care about my own feelings more than someone else’s stated intentions) to the test. He brought up one of the recent rape-in-the-military scandals. We have previously talked about women in the military many times, his position being that women should not be in the military, because men cannot form proper killing machine teams with women in the vicinity. Total sexist bullshit, I know. He is very sexist, but wants credit for believing in equality because “you know when I met my ex-wife I didn’t even demand that she give up her career, I supported it even!” and “I got her a nanny and a housekeeper when TraderTot was small” and “after the divorce my friends told me I should just have put my foot down, that she went crazy because I let her get away with too much,” and somehow in his mind this adds up to equality. Why, oh why, oh why, did I ever put up with this?
At any rate, we were talking about the rape scandals, and I told him how I felt about it: that the military attracts men who are trying to prove their masculinity (this has been demonstrated in some really excellent studies), and one of the ways such men prove their masculinity is by abusing women (very good studies there too–I’m not making this up, it’s not hypothetical). That a military composed so much of men with so few women in it is going to be even more hyper-masculine in this destructive way; the entire culture of the military needs to be changed. We can just swap out one Military Dude Whose Job It Is To Protect Women From Other Military Dudes, with another one. Because a military that views women as objects with which Manly Men demonstrate their virility and penis-hood by raping and beating is not, actually, going to be effective at protecting the women in that society who do after all comprise 50+% of it. You know? I mean, how is that military going to effectively protect the interests of the half of the population that they consider to be Not Fully Human? Not well, is what I am thinking.
So I said this, but politely.
He wanted credit still for not being sexist.
Sure, he said, I can see what you’re saying in how a male military might lead to an unequal outcome, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not equal. It doesn’t mean that I don’t support equality, by not wanting women in the military.
No, I said. It’s sexist, patronizing, and insulting. It is not equal, to argue that women will interfere with men’s special killing teams when that killing team is supposed to exist to protect the interests of women as well as men.  (You see what I did there? He wanted credit for his intentions; I said no. First time ever. But no, his stated intentions did not get him a pass or a cookie for being enlightened and proto-feminist for not wanting women in the military.)
He then stopped talking to me.
Literally, just stopped. Walked away, and did not talk to me again for weeks. No word of explanation. Just gone.
Fine, I thought. I will wait. I am sure as hell not going to become part of his constant tornado of “women drama” that surrounds him at all times of the day and night by trying to get an explanation out of him, or talk it over. Let him go and be a sulky jerk.
He cancelled plans by saying that he was just in a really terrible place and couldn’t pretend to be happy right now. OK, sure. I was going to cancel our plans anyway, since I have no particular desire to see him, seeing as he’s a sulky jerk.
When he finally decided to tell me–still no apology or even indication that just walking away was anything other than normal or acceptable–it was about more drama from his ex-wife, another battle over time with Trader-Tot, and how this had him staring into the abyss. “What, that’s it?” is how my response can be paraphrased. “Umm, seriously? Your fancy-pants expensive arbitrator saved the day yet again, right? Everything is just the way you want it? No crisis? Right?”
Don’t think he was impressed, as he is still not speaking to me. I don’t much care, and don’t miss him.
In the not-speaking-to periods, I have done some pretty deep thinking. I remembered how nervous I was of him, how scared sometimes; how something just didn’t add up, in the story he told of himself and his divorce and who he was. His stupid mean jokes, that he wouldn’t stop. The way he constantly complains about all of the DRAMA from the women in his life, not having any clue that he causes it. (Actual conversation about his most recent break-up: Me: Well, that sounds pretty drama free. That’s nice. Trader: Oh yes, there was no drama there. None. I would sometimes say shit like you know I do and sit there looking afraid I guess like she was going to go drama, and she’d constantly reassure me that that’s not what she does. -and then I stared at him, perplexed and somewhat sad, as he apparently had no memory that this also perfectly describes the first few months of our relationship and how he behaved then, and how eventually he did find ways to make me “go drama,” and then blame me for them.) No complaints about DRAMA from men. How he would talk about how “scared” he is of the anger of the women in his life, including mine, when the expressions of anger were minimal to non-existent. The way, when I would try to talk to him about things he was doing that angered me, and he would just sit there with that stupid smirk on his face, as if he couldn’t care less but I sure was cute when I was being all hyper-sensitive. All of it. I re-read all my old entries.
I remembered a party of his I had been to recently, where he had invited a woman he hates. Don’t ask me why. But he hates her, and is constantly complaining of her immaturity, her craziness, her DRAMA. She comes to this party, and he spends the whole thing “joking” with her about how immature and crazy she is. Huh, I remembered thinking; sometimes those mean jokes are really not jokes.
I re-read the links about abusive relationships.
I thought, well fuck, he actually did show a lot of warning signs of emotionally abusive relationships: the boundary pushing, the mean “jokes,” the early push for too much commitment and moving much too fast, the stories of how he and his ex were engaged within six months of meeting, how he made her move across the Atlantic for him, his insistence on rigid sex roles (again disguised as a “joke”–he still jokes with me about how ‘unladylike’ I am), his broken and forgotten promises, his over-selling of what he was going to do with his life to match what he thought I wanted, his belief that he was entitled to behave however he wanted without consequence because he told me he meant well–pretty much all of the warning signs were there. The only one that wasn’t was “hypersensitivity,” which is over-reacting to perceived slights, but in the Trader’s case there was no reaction to anything I said of an emotional nature.
And I remembered the dream about the broken sentient robot that told mean jokes.
The sentient part made sense already–the mean jokes made sense in spades–but why a robot?
He’s a robot, you ninny, because he doesn’t have a heart.
I would very much like to never speak to him again. But PP would miss seeing him and TT. The only reason I have not cut him out of my life permanently, right now, is PP. And I don’t know what to do, or how to handle that. She is already very upset about the last guy (the rapist, who also let himself into my house in my absence to find and remove his things without asking or telling me–which she found out about, and which scared her). And she’s lost so much. I don’t want her to lose more on my account.
But the Trader is not a nice guy with a bad history of relationships and a crazy ex. He’s an abusive, misogynistic asshole. I’d bet you my house he abused his ex-wife, though not physically; I’d bet you anything she said he was plotting her murder because she was genuinely afraid of him. I’ll bet you that is the black box connecting the sweet, innocent girl of the courtship with the crazy lady of the divorce: an unrelenting campaign of verbal and emotional abuse that he doesn’t even recognize because he thinks that’s how you’re supposed to treat women.
And now the question is, what boundaries do I put in place so that I don’t go crazy trying to be friends with someone that my daughter would miss if I cut him out of my life?

where I’ve been

Nowhere much. The Rock Star thing didn’t pan out, for reasons I’d rather not get into. Working, mothering, writing, thinking, reading, the usual. Dating, and growing increasingly disenchanted with it. Not blogging, or at least, not here.

When I first started this blog there were a lot of things I wanted to process–my family, my marriage, how not to repeat those mistakes–and while I am far, far from being finished, I no longer need to spend so much time thinking about them, and writing it out to find out what I think. It just feels over.

And instead I spent way too much time here writing about dating, which was cathartic and all but a big distraction from more worthwhile pursuits. Also, thanks to the stats post, I’ve mostly come to terms with the idea that I’m going to be single for a long time. Not consistently single, you know, as in sitting here with my non-existent cats, but probably without a long-term partnership. The combination of the unlikelihood of finding all the things I’m looking for plus living in a small town where the options are limited to begin with added to my inability to bend on what I’m looking for, my continued need to feel 99% sure before moving forward in a relationship thanks to my experiences with the Ex and the divorce’s impact on PP, means I’m going to be sitting tight and waiting for someone who is pretty fucking special and worth any compromises which would have to be correspondingly slim–not just a decent guy who seems like he’ll do because I’m tired of being lonely.

I am tired of it. Thoroughly sick of it. Hard-core introverts in the audience will understand when I say that coming home to an empty house every night sucks, but going out every night to spend time with groups of people is just too exhausting for words. On the other hand, coming home every night to the wrong person is in every respect worse.

What this means right now is that I am dating with low expectations and a bad attitude. I put practically no time into it and am more irritated at messages than anything. On the plus side I’m getting a lot better and finding people to go out with who I have something significant in common with (environmentalism or politics or whatever) so when it (inevitably) doesn’t go anywhere, since I didn’t get all that invested in the first place, it usually tempers into a nice acquaintanceship, and at least I end up with people to chat with every now and then.

In any case, work is going well, the Ex is being only a moderate dickhead, I am reading and writing and sewing up a storm, slowly but surely branching out and making more local acquaintances, and enjoying PP, who is as fabulous as ever. You know, I can’t feel too sorry for myself if the reason I’m still single is because I’m not willing to trade the life I’ve got to be in a mediocre relationship. A lot of married people, especially unhappily married people, would probably be quite happy with my life; and I’ll be a lot of single women my age without kids would kill to have a beautiful little girl like PP in their lives. In fact I’ll bet a lot of them are dating specifically because they want to one day be in my shoes, parenting-wise.

So there you have it.

Anyway, I’m not going to be back here again, but I didn’t want to just leave that last post as the, well, last post; so here’s an official goodbye. Thanks to everyone who’s read along over the years. It would have been nice to have a more traditional happy ending, but this one will have to do.

Brief Update

1. I’m alive. No thanks to the medical device that’s supposed to keep me that way, but a story for another time, Dear Readers. (Nothing serious. Irritating rather than frightening.)

2. I need a nickname. (One day I should do a search to find out how many times I’ve used that phrase over the last four years. It’s my very own personal cliche.) But I don’t know what to use.

It’s the musician guy. He’s a single dad with a couple of bands and other artistic ventures and some side businesses to pay the bills. We met up last week between my workday and his gig; a picnic in not particularly nice weather by the lake. It was a bit rushed due to the time constraints but nice–relaxed, casual, and much more fun than the standard coffee date. He’s cute. He has a nice smile. He seems sweet, and is very open. We had one of those “me too!” conversations, which may not say much if you haven’t made a habit of being an oddball (“I like American Idol.” “Me too!”) but doesn’t happen often when you have (“I was an anarchist in my 20s.” “Me too!”). We have, so far, very similar perspectives on politics and social issues.

So far.

Anyway, feel free to suggest a nickname. I can’t decide on one myself.

Do you hear me knocking on wood from where you are? I like him, a lot, but that inner voice keeps reminding me that the last time I really liked someone a lot, it didn’t turn out so well because he (they) turned out to be jerk(s).

We have another date this weekend and I am really excited about it. And so is he (that open thing). I think I’ll let most of this one happen off-stage though. Bug me directly if you want more details. 🙂

3. Oh right! Other guys:

Told Jokester I was going to pass on more dates. If I’m flipping out over some other guy, it wouldn’t be fair. Tuba was a disaster, totally non-face related, just was wooden and kind of sardonic and full of himself in person, then he went home and sent me a web diagnosis of PP based on a story I’d told him about a game she likes to play. Apparently it is indicative of deep psychological problems. Had a date with the other single dad, no spark. Nothing in common. Smiled politely over a diet coke for a while then went home. Have let the other email correspondences drop.

Yep, really like the unnicknameable one. Not fair to be dating others if I’m not really interested, so I won’t. The unnicknameable one–lord that’s a mouthful–and I have already discussed how neither of us are currently dating other people. We’ll see what happens.