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Archive for March, 2011

You know a date is not going to go well when your first thought on meeting is, “You are not 5’8″.”

And he wasn’t. Maybe 5’6″. Nice enough guy. Not a chain-smoker. But enh. I didn’t sense much long-term compatibility, and not just because I’m taller than he is (in flat boots, Dear Readers). I am telling myself that this was just practice and getting back out there and, you know, as much as it was good to get out of the house and talk to another adult over the weekend I don’t think I’m yet in a really good place for the whole thing.

Of course he wants to see me again, so I will have to do the Letting Down Gently thing, which is just depressing.

He also mentioned the two things I hear after absolutely every first date:

1: Gosh you’re quiet. I have no idea whether or not you had a good time.

2: You are much prettier than your pictures.

What do I do about the first? I follow every good mother’s good advice (which is to say, no advice I ever got from my own Mom, but I’m sure you got this advice from yours): Just Be Yourself! Except that Myself is very quiet. I AM Just Being Myself. So I sit, mute as a woodcut, regardless of whether I’m enjoying myself or not. I don’t blame the guys for being confused.

Do I keep Just Being Myself? Or do I figure out how to be a more regular person? You know, someone who can be enthusiastic without six months of prior acquaintance.

#2 strikes me as … I don’t know. I don’t know whether to put any stock in it or not. But if it’s true then I want to fix it, because a lot of decisions are made on these sites based on pictures. As much as I would like to believe that my winning prose will woo potential suitors to my side–no.

So. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get pictures done, which hopefully I can use both here and in any writing work. I’m getting a hair cut & colour Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon I’m going to see a photographer. It all feels so unbelievably vain, but hell. I may as well give it a shot. Worst case, I have a nice new picture to go along with my occasional articles, and I can claim it on my taxes this year.

I need to bring a few changes of outfits. I may ask for opinions, Dear Readers. I may ignore those opinions, but I will think about them.

eHarmony mini-review: After the initial flurry of newness-inspired interest, the vast majority of matches the site is sending me are fifty-year old 5’5″ blue-collar guys who like reality TV and their cars. In other words, the personalities may be compatible, but the person and the lifestyle are not. It’s like eH says, “Hey, you both like books, you’ll love each other!” without noticing or caring that one person likes poetry and Margaret Atwood and Michio Kaku and the other person likes Terry Brooks and Stephen King and David Eddings. There is–I rush to say this before someone points it out for me–nothing wrong with people who like Terry Brooks and David Eddings, of course, but my disdain for their work would surely come across in any conversation. And I suspect I would find it difficult to convey my love of Mary Oliver to someone whose literary idol is Terry Brooks.

Can I digress, for a moment, into a sidebar about the unbelievable egos of modern men? It’s true, what they say: women feel totally inadequate if they don’t have the body of Kate Hudson, the career of Madeleine Albright and the family of Angelina Jolie, but your regular Joe with a beer gut and a job driving a forklift doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t end up with someone with the body of Kate Hudson, career of Madeleine Albright and family of Angelina Jolie. It offends me.

I think this will be the Summer of Picky. Dates must have some personality compatibility that I can see before we meet. Some indication of open-mindedness and kindness. But they also have to be smart, taller than me, and look like someone I am capable of being attracted to, even if the fireworks don’t go off immediately. I expect this means I will not have many dates this summer. So be it. I already have other plans every weekend between now and the end of April, so I think I will be ok.

Can you tell I’m feeling a little ambivalent about all this right now?

Actually, the dictionary definition of ambivalence is envious of my level of ambivalence about this whole dating thing. I want to be in a relationship, at some point if not right this very moment. I am so over first dates. One doesn’t come without the other, goddammit, so off I go, dragging my feet.

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– Date on Sunday. 99% sure. Not one of the guys I discussed before, someone else. Local. Seems nice enough. Single dad, works in a helping profession. He smokes. I am iffy on that but I don’t know how much, so figured we may as well meet. He seems like a good guy though. And at the very least, it’ll keep me out of the house for a few hours on Sunday afternoon!

– Amazing that after being a mom without a break for three weeks, all I can think of is how much I’m going to miss PP until she gets back on Sunday. I had all kinds of plans set for tomorrow but they’ve all fallen through at the last minute. Sigh.

– Going to get my mortgage stuff, household chores & errands all straightened out instead. Not as much fun, but it’s got to be done. Maybe I’ll also check out some fabric stores, see if I can plan out a new creative project.

– The Trader sent me an e-card yesterday. He truly does not understand the meaning of “no contact for a period of several months.” Or he does, but wants to keep pushing those boundaries to see if I really mean it.

– Update on the other guys: 1-no worries, I had no intention to see him. 2-I’ve decided to pass. Would have liked to just sit there and look at him for a few hours, but I don’t think it’s right. 3-Haven’t responded to his last message and he’s made no further efforts to get in touch. 4-We’ve emailed a bunch but he’s never mentioned wanting to get together. He’s either pathologically shy/cautious or he enjoys emailing but doesn’t want to meet. Whatever.

That’s ok! The thing about the internet is that there is always someone else. There’s the guy I’m meeting on Sunday, and a couple of others I’m corresponding with.

– I read this thing on internet dating. (Because you can always learn how to do anything from a book. Right?) He said you should be aiming to be writing to 10, talking to 5, and dating 2. Until you’re only dating 1, on purpose, in which case it’s just the one. On the one hand, I appreciate the logic. On the other hand, yikes!

– I need new pictures. The ones the Trader took are fine and all for the “extras” but they’re not good profile shots, and the only one I have is 2 years old, when my hair was much shorter.

– I am thinking of lightening my hair a bit. I want a low-maintenance change, something I can let go for a week or two without getting a skunk stripe, and not highlights. I’ve never liked highlights. Just something a bit closer to what happens to my hair by the end of the summer, when I’ve been spending all my time outside. Sort of a medium-dark golden blonde. I can’t find a single picture of what I’m thinking of online, though. Maybe something like this.

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is, that I can easily afford to hire a cleaner. Not to do everything all the time, but for a few hours a month to handle all the things I never have time for.

Oddly, this was the first time I sat down to do a budget since taking the new job last year. This is completely out of character; usually I look at the thing every few months, but the pay structure at this place is a little odd and it took me a while to figure out exactly how much I was making. I like budgets to two decimal places, so I just didn’t have the info for a while and then I had other things to worry about.

But what  nice surprise, to sit down finally with all the numbers and see myself so solidly in the black.

A taste of my analness, Dear Readers: I have a chequing account and several no-fee savings accounts. One is for general/emergency savings; one is for big-ticket savings; one is for writing income; one is for saving for vacation time; one is where I save money for sick days outside of the ones I get paid for (it’s never enough); one is for saving for Christmas presents. Then there’s PP’s education savings, and my retirement savings. It’s a lot of accounts to juggle but I am so reassured seeing those numbers sitting there, ticking upwards, and knowing that emergencies of various sorts and small indulgences are covered. And apparently a cleaner.

And I’m just going to give myself a self-deprecating pat on the back (if there is such a thing) for having good finances on one middle-class income.

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1. Being tired. Dear Readers, I love having PP for all this extra time. I adore feeding her and packing her lunches and seeing her well-fed and taken care of and happy. I get extra hand-holding and snuggles and conversations about many things including [stage whisper] The Crush. But I do not get to sleep. I am exhausted. This is not good for one’s mood, overall.

2. Being single. In practice being single is lovely, or it would be if (see above) I were getting enough sleep and/or had any time to myself. In theory, it rubs, and I know this is all backwards. I like the time, resources, control and bed to myself. What I don’t like, mostly, is the thought of there being no one around to tell all of the details of my day to. The frustrating thing is that in some ways I never really had this with the Trader, as he was much better at talking about himself than he was at giving me space to talk about me. But I miss it, just the same, those few minutes at the end of the day when I got to talk to someone about what is going on with me.

3. Being new. After living here for (quick finger counting …) nine months, I shouldn’t be as new as I am still, but there you go. I’m new. I’ve done a fair bit of exploring so I’ve found restaurants and shops and trails and parks etc., but no people. a) I’ve been putting all of my people energy into the relationship with the Trader (woops!). b) I so suck at making friends. It takes me forever. Having friends more local than The City would obviously help a lot with #2; but the work required to establish them is making me anxious.

Regardless, I’ve forced myself to sign up for some local groups with upcoming events where I might meet people with common interests (hiking & books, respectively) and I’m telling myself that it might take me a year before I actually feel comfortable and friendly with the people I meet … but it will happen eventually and the sooner I get started, the better.

I really don’t know how the (more) extraverted among you do it. I’ll be standing there still trying to figure out how to say hello while you’re already exchanging phone numbers and making plans.

4. Being old. OK, I’m not old. And even if I were, it’s better than the alternative, which is being dead, and it’s not like my age is bothering me. But breaking up just before your birthday, especially when it’s a birthday over 35? Not as much fund as advertised, and I don’t believe it’s advertised as being fun.

I can’t believe it’s been four years since the separation. I really thought by now I’d have things all hammered out, including the Partner part, and while intellectually I know that having figured out the work/house/parenting thing is a big chunk of it, I thought I’d be all the way there.

5. Trader is being a bit of a dick. Part of the break-up was an agreed-upon period of social network unfriending (FB, twitter, etc.) so that space and time can work their magic and we might be able to be friends. Well, wouldn’t you know it but he’s posting all over a friend’s FB wall. What is the not-jumping-to-conclusions way of taking this? Because it feels tacky, tactless, insensitive and intentional: YOU CAN UNFRIEND ME BUT YOU CAN’T AVOID ME NANANANANA!

Truth is it probably hasn’t occured to him, because a lot of things don’t occur to him, but it’s still driving me nuts. When I’m on FB, anyway.

That’s the Down.

There’s not a whole lot of Up at this exact moment, besides being busy and happy at work and having lots of extra time with PP and it finally being Spring! with things growing in my garden. That’s Up. There is, however, a fair bit of Sea Level:

1. Males. Couple of date offers. 1–guy from the City who was willing to drive out, which seemed ok until he asked an inappropriate question about pubic hair. ! 2–local guy, single dad, very very cute, not particularly bright if his emails are anything to go by. A distinct disregard for punctuation and a heavy preference for single syllabic words. Not sure yet. He seems nice but I know that eventually a lack of smarts would be a problem. 3–eH guy from Beyond Bob. We’ve exchanged a bunch of emails over the past week or so and he has yet to ask me a single question about myself. Not one. Beyond the ones in the mandatory eH communication process at least. Is this too picky? If someone wants to see you, wouldn’t they have some curiosity about you or your life? It rubs me the wrong way. 4–eH guy from a nearby town who seems really, really nice.

This is having weeded out the way too young (21! Jeepers!), too short, too far (Spain? Really?), too creepy. Actually #1 would fit in that last after his chatting gaffe. At any rate, I expect to have a date early in April. I don’t know if #3 is worth it, though. Wouldn’t you think someone who is genuinely interested in me might have a question or two? And if not via email, is there any point in person?

I’ll admit that seeing #2 would be entirely shallow. I can’t see any potential there. He’s just really, really attractive and seems nice.

2. Houses. I think I’m going to get myself pre-approved again and start looking around to see what I can find in my price range and current neighbourhood. There’s one cute little 2 bedroom bungalow less than a block from where we are now. That could be nice. Close to her school, easy walk to work, big yard …. A fireplace. It might be a titch overpriced so I’m hoping if I hold off a week or two more it’ll drop, or at least they’ll be more open to a lower bid. I can afford it where it is but of course I’d rather have it for less.

3. Cleaners. I’m thinking of hiring one on my own, dammit. Why do I need the Trader for that? It’d be nice to not have to worry about mopping & the bathroom anymore, which is really all I need. I’ll look into the cost anyway and see what I can swing.

Work has been a never-ending series of meetings and minutes and action items lately. Never have I felt more like a real manager. But, you know–busy.

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PP and I just had a wonderful weekend in the same place the Trader and I went last summer.

It was either brave, or stupid, to go back there so soon after our break-up, and I felt it. Generally when PP fell asleep at night I holed myself up in the bathroom to quietly cry. But by the time we left this afternoon I was fine, and now I’m good, if exhausted from being kicked and head-butted all night. It was great to have so much time with her and to see her so happy and enjoying all of the things I thought she would.

Still. You know? That was hard.

But as we drove away the whole thing ebbed and I felt fine. We got home and I still felt fine. I read a few messages from possible dates and felt … fine. Fine about hearing from them, fine if we meet up or not, fine if it doesn’t work out. It’s all fine. Fine is kind of bland, but I can deal with bland. Bland is a nice break from all of the Drama, frankly.

~~~~~

I made a big list of things I wanted to get done in March, without apparently taking any consideration of the fact that I have PP with me until the 25th. WTH? What was I thinking? I’ll be lucky if I take a shower between now and then.

So I’ll have to put a limit on the dating in April, if dating there be, so that I can do all that good catching-up stuff then.

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the confession part

I don’t know. Isn’t this whole blog a confession? Do any of you feel any particular need to learn another deep, dark secret? I mean, it’s not like I spare myself. In fact, wasn’t I writing just the other day about how I take too much responsibility, and confess to things I didn’t properly do?

How about a lighthearted confession?

Grade 8 grad dance. I was wearing that black strapless dress with the little white bolero jacket that stores seem to sell perennially (I’m pretty sure I saw it at the mall last year). I was easily the least popular kid in my school but I was looking forward to the grad dance and got myself all dolled up. (No one asked me to dance and I was crushed, of course, but it took so little to make me hopeful back then–and as it turned out I was just one or two months away from my Era of Sexual Harassment, so it was all about to change.)

I entered the gym where the dance was held with two girls I was friendly with.

“Whew,” said one of them. “Something smells nice in here.”

“It’s probably me,” said Maeve, thinking about the perfume I had just bought and was wearing that night for the first time. Cue awkward silence between the two girls who were undoubtedly wondering how the heck I managed to miss the sarcasm in their exchange. Took me a while to realize I’d announced to the two of them that I smelled like gym socks.

But there you have it, Dear Readers: taking things at face value is a habit I’ve had for a long, long time. It continues to plague me.

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So I’m now in the “reading books about how to learn from previous relationships” phase. I really think I could write myself an entire autobiography that would consist of nothing but what books I was reading at what time. Happy, productive, contented times? Novels, craft books, gardening books, etc. Heartbreak, disruption, trauma times? Shall be known by the titles of their self-help tomes.

They’re actually reasonably good. The plus side to reading so many of these bloody things over the past few years is that I’ve gotten quite good at weeding out the chaff, to mix my metaphors terribly, so I actually feel now like I’m getting reasonably good advice.

One thing I read yesterday resonated, and I’m still thinking it and the implications through. And it’s going to be all mixed up with Starhawk’s Wicked Vows, which she said are the promises we make to ourselves (consciously or not) to protect ourselves. Anyway, yesterday’s book (yes, I did read 1 1/2 books yesterday, if you need to know) was Better Love Next Time, which sounds terribly cheesy but was actually not bad and was written by a PhD who doesn’t give himself airs and call himself a Doctor on the cover so you’re fooled into thinking he’s a therapist, unlike some others I could mention. Anyway. He wrote a chapter called The Fallen World, which was about the loss of innocence after a bad break-up and the false lessons and protective mechanisms carried forward, which damage future relationships.

What I found myself thinking about was the Ex and the Engineer, and the lesson I learned from those relationships: I am a gullible idiot who will fall for anything. And the promise I made to myself: I won’t be duped again.

This is a terrible attitude to bring into a new relationship: You can try, but you won’t fool me! Even if I had managed to find someone who’s a good match, I would be so busily protecting myself from believing what they told me that I wouldn’t see it. And this caused unbelievable stress with the Trader, who constantly made grand promises to impress me which I busily protected myself from believing.

But here’s the hard part.

The first counselor I saw, before I even decided to leave the Ex, validated everything I was feeling. She asked how long we’d dated before marrying. Two years, I replied; You’d think it would have been long enough. He lied to you, she said; What would have been long enough? And that one exchange in the whole session is what stuck. Sure it was his fault he lied to me; that was a bad thing to do, I agree; but wasn’t it my fault for believing it? If it wasn’t, then there’s nothing I can do to prevent it from happening again. I NEED to be responsible for it.

I’ve been thinking about this for the past few months. Somehow I need to be ok with the thought of it happening again, of being duped that badly, or I’ll never be in any of the relationships I’m in. But it shattered me before, and the memory of that is fresh enough that I still shy away from the possibility.

And then there’s the terror of putting PP through another divorce, if I end up living with someone who I’m not compatible with. On the one hand this raises the bar quite handily, in that behaviour I’d normally be tempted to put up with indefinitely (not putting much value on my own happiness) is quite easy to reject when I think of PP being its daily witness. Funny how that works. But on the other hand, I worry that it raises the bar so high that no mortal relationship will ever cross it.

All of which adds up to me thinking that I may just be single long-term.

I’ve read in a bunch of places that women are much more deeply affected by divorce than men are: while both become depressed, men recover more quickly. Women, but not men, become more depressed with a second divorce, and sometimes do not ever recover. Both men’s and women’s health and longevity are affected by divorce, but while men’s health and longevity recover to near-normal at remarriage, women’s does not. The consensus view so far appears to be that because women are expected to be the relationship experts, they are judged much more harshly by others and by themselves when their relationships fail. No matter whose fault it actually was, it was her fault, because she is the women and it’s her job to make the relationships work.

I see this with the Ex and me. He’s not just responsible for the demise of our marriage but the quality of my life today; when I think of the sacrifices I made for that relationship and the price I paid and continue to pay for having been in that marriage, it’s galling. But he’s off and without having done anything to repair the problems that led to the failure of his last two significant relationships, he’s going to get married again. When it goes off the rails no doubt his now-fiancee is the one who will be beating herself up and wondering how she let it go so wrong. And here I am, petrified that if I form a live-in relationship with someone too much less than perfect (how much less than perfect is too much? 1%? 5%? 0.5%?) it will be all my fault when my heart and PP’s heart get broken again and that I cannot bear another failure.

Women need to feel a little bit less responsible for their relationships, for the sake of their sanity and health; men need to feel more. They just bounce from failed relationship to failed relationship, convinced that the next time they’ll find the woman who will be the right woman because everything will be easy with her and they won’t have to change and, considering she’ll have been conditioned to accept that responsibility, little is likely to disrupt the fantasy.

If ED and the Research Guy had been female, they would never have been permitted to reach their late 30s/early 40s with the belief intact that they just needed to meet the right girl. It would have been beaten into them already for years that they were responsible for the failure of their previous relationships and that it was their job to learn, change and grow in order to make the next ones work.

At least I can see the boxes. Now if only I could see my way out of them.

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