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fish & bicycles

I need a new nickname, Dear Readers. One for a guy who is irish, smart, bookish, and a psychologist. It’s not lending itself to anything really obvious for me so for now I’ll go with Psych. So: coffee date with Psych today at a local cafe. Went very well; he’s personable, friendly, very smart, we talked for a couple of hours about tons of things and enjoyed it greatly, and who should walk in just as we were thinking about heading out but two of my coworkers, who then took up a table on the opposite side of the cafe and smirked at us (nicely). And then we all struck up a conversation, so score one for Psych who was also able to chat with my very nice colleagues. There will be a date #2 later this week, before PP comes back. Tomorrow I’m meeting up withe FriendBoy and looking forward to it greatly. Plans with GameBoy fell through (he needed to take the kids this weekend). Tomorrow evening I’m meeting up with a local hiking group for the first time, and really looking forward to that too–local hiking friends! I need that badly.

This mini social update brought you to you by PPlessness. I miss her like stink already. Today I will cook, sew, write, read, run, and pretend to be productive instead of lonely and miserable.

~~~~~

So as I began thinking of this post, I dropped my near-full can of Diet Coke and spilled it all over the floor–appropriate, I think, for writing about a non-goal-oriented, serendipitous, grace-under-fire approach to success.

For all of the progress women have made over the last several decades, certain attitudes remain distressingly common and difficult to eradicate: to be successful as a female, one must be youthful, attractive, desirable to men, and in long-lasting and heterosexual relationship. It doesn’t matter what else you have, do or are in the rest of your life. If you can’t master these four, expect to be pitied. A man who ages well, remains single, and has other accomplishments is admired and envied; a woman is pitied, as if nothing else matters if she can’t get a man and keep him happy.

If this doesn’t describe why women continue to buy and devour relationship self-help books, I don’t know what does. Arguably, women need men far less than men need women. So how else to make sure that women chase men around trying to service and satisfy them, other than to convince them that they are pathetic failures, desperate, sad and lonely caricatures of women?

Women’s magazines–chick flicks–chicklit–and those god-damned relationship self-help books–the happy endings are all a kiss with the handsome prince, however defined. Men are not sold this bill of goods, though as anyone who has ever lived with a man could tell you, men are really the ones who need the presence of the opposite sex in order to function on a daily basis. But I keep coming back to a few things, including one (just ONE) of the relationship self-help books, which pertinently noted that in order for girls to grow into women seeing singledom as a positive option, women who are single need to see it so themselves, and act like they’re not just in a holding pattern waiting for a man to show up and complete them. The rest of the book I can no longer recall (though clearly I should go back and reread it).

And I keep thinking–you know, I want to be in a relationship. Very much. I want my happily ever after, too, and for real this time, not a pretty mask on an empty horror. I would like to live with someone I love and who loves me and PP and makes our lives better. But that’s the key–it has to make our lives better. I have to believe going in that this isn’t an even trade, but an improvement. I’ve been in a bad marriage before. Being single, even being single when you really don’t want to be single, is a hell of a lot better than being in a bad marriage.

Still, I get caught up in the feelings of inadequacy, as if there is something wrong with me and I have failed because I’m not in a relationship. Or because it’s been four years since the separation and The One has yet to appear. So it’s headshake time.

Here they are: Maeve’s Reasons Why Single Moms are Already Successful:

1. Biological: Your genes don’t care if you’re married or common-law or a prostitute. They just want to get passed on. Single moms, by definition, have done this already. My genes give me an A+.

2. Autonomy: Single moms don’t have to get anyone’s permission to paint the living room, put flowered curtains in the bathroom, sleep on whatever side of the bed they damned well please, make what they like for dinner, or spend an extra $50 on a frill. The downside of running the house by yourself is a total downer, meaning exhaustion and over-extension and too many bills, but the upside is truly beautiful. No televised sports games. No arguments over discipline or schoolwork. No cable bill. No snoring. No pile of stinky underwear beside the bed. No lidless toothpaste tube leaking toothpaste all over the sink. No in-laws. No doing 50% more housework, no pressure to take a paycut and work part-time since we don’t “need” my income. No choice between nagging someone to do a little bit of housework vs. just giving up and doing it all yourself.

3. Financial: We bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and give exactly zero thought to whether or not it wounds some fragile male ego to say so.

4. Variety: You know what cures the middle-aged female labido? Singledom. Boredom is death to desire, Dear Readers. No fears there, so long as I’m not committed to anyone. When I was with the Ex, thanks to boredom and the Ick factor of sex with someone who was trying to have sex with the entire female half of the western hemisphere, we did not have a whole lot of (ahem) intimate time (and when we did, I was a bundle of resentment, which also is no fun for either party). That hasn’t been an issue for a while now.

5. Career: The Married Me was trapped in a boring, stultifying, dead-end (yet comfortable and secure) job largely because it met my ex-husband’s needs. Thanks to autonomy (see #2), I now have a job I like in a career I love and live somewhere I’m crazy about. I write in my spare time. I read oodles of books, and complete my craft projects.

6. Authenticity: I am building a life that matches who I am and who I want to be.

7. Happiness: I practically ooze all of that gratitude-happiness-meaning stuff the Positive Psychology gurus go on and on about.

No wonder I am being picky and demanding in relationships. Marriage has not been good to me, and as I write this I realize that I feel I’d be giving up an awful lot for something of dubious value. I still want that partnership, but it has to be a good partnership, one in which I’d gain more than I’d lose–meaning that the above needs to remain intanct. I need to know I can still live my environmental and social values, still do work that is meaningful, not sacrifice my personal life to meeting the needs of the household and my partner, not cede my equality. I’m still going to date, not just because I do want a relationship that can lead to a real partnership someday and I won’t find it at home in my pajamas, more’s the shame, but also because celibacy isn’t a lifestyle I can appreciate for more than a few weeks.

In the meantime, thankyouverymuch, Western Culture, but women haven’t needed men to be successful for a very long time now. Feel free to catch up with reality whenever you’d like.

new lesson learned

I should not ignore what a guy tells me about himself in the first few weeks of dating.

Rather, I should expect the direct opposite.

The Ex spent his time talking up the importance of monogamy when we first met. The Trader, how happy he was, how optimistic, and much he wanted a drama-free and boring relationship. The Starving Artist, how much he wanted to be responsible and stable. And now Hike, who told me so convincingly about what a nice guy he was, and how he treated others with respect and consideration.

I’ve decided that this is the way to a person’s blind spot: they blind themselves, whether consciously or not, with all the talk about how much they are not this thing that they so badly do not want to be.

Which makes me wonder about what it is about myself that I cover up with too much talk. I don’t think I actually talk about myself at all when I first meet someone. I figure I’m better off just talking about what I care about, and acting like myself, and then the other person can come to their own likely accurate conclusions about who I am. But I’ll have to pay attention over the next little while to the things I do say, and what I say too often.

And: listen to the guys, listen to what they talk up. Gandhi spent a lot of time in his last emails telling me how suffering is optional, pain is optional, it’s important to choose happiness over fear–all fine, really, but it tells me he probably is suffering and in pain. Otherwise I don’t think I’ve heard too much concerning from the other guys I’m talking to.

Meanwhile, the new PM has been telling me how important it is to have good communication skills and let people take responsibility for their own work, not control too much, and not encourage them to be dependent on the PM. Hmmm.

(Speaking of which: it’s not just me she’s alienated. She has cut off contact with one of her clients, angered local government offices by being pushy with inappropriate questions, and completely frustrated our field workers. I shouldn’t be happy about this, but I am. How long do you think it will take the higher-ups to realize that she’s a disaster?)

venting & processing.

1. the idea was to draft the email and let it sit for 12 hours so I could tone it down, make it less angry. Instead I reread it, turned up the heat, and hit send. Man I was pissed. I did, however, communicate very clearly that I did not want to hear from him again, that I considered his behaviour harassment, and that if it continues from this point on I will contact the authorities.

So, of course, HE WROTE BACK. Promising to never contact me again on account of how I am an evil, corrupt, dishonest, scheming woman he doesn’t want in his life who by the way is single because she doesn’t want to communicate. Fucking hell. What a goddamned asshole. (Incidentally, that is the gist of yesterday’s password-protected post.)

I’m surprised by how much this unsettled me. I found myself avoiding my run Saturday in case he decided to track me down again to “say hello.”

Oh, did I mention that in one of his emails over the weekend, he told me that he had looked up my blogs and articles (the ones with my real name) and had been reading them while we were dating? And hadn’t mentioned that to me, until a week after we broke up. Is it just me, or is that creepy?

2. GameBoy date went ok, but just ok. He’s a nice guy and seems like a good Dad–good friend material but I could see things there that, if we were dating, would drive me nuts inside of six months. (“The Man is not out to get you! I’m sorry, but there are much more important people he’s focused on.”)

3. PP’s dance recital was brilliant. Oh, the dancing and twirling and grinning and bopping there was to be seen! She was fabulous and it was so adorable. When my parents send me their pictures I’ll post them on FB.

4. I’ve decided to let Gandhi drop. For obvious reasons. He’s decided not to let me drop. I keep getting new emails. At least he doesn’t know where I live and I’ve set up an anonymous email address to communicate with matches, so he doesn’t know my last name either.

5. There’s a couple other people I’ve been talking to, including FriendBoy, who I’ve got tentative plans with for Sunday. This is good. And a long list of other things to do to keep myself occupied the first week PP is at her Dad’s. And I plan to work overtime and get some more hikes and runs in. Do I sound like I’m dreading it? I am.

I think I’m going to have a few dates this weekend, actually, and a couple of them are going to be friend-dates, including with GameBoy who has decided NOT to b a creepy stalker after finding out that I don’t want a relationship with him. I am happy about this.

It’s strange how much that date and the email afterwards helped, actually, after the way Hike behaved–it’s hard not to wonder if I somehow didn’t communicate directly or clearly enough with him and encouraged him to harass and follow me about. But no. GameBoy got it pretty straight and without going off the rails, and I wasn’t more less clear with him. Hike really is just deranged.

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this is what I mean

Edited to add: He went home and emailed me. Or: HE WENT HOME AND EMAILED ME.

11 pm Friday night, knock on the door. It’s Hike.

Seriously. !

Open it, glare.

Hike: Hi

Maeve: Hi

Hike: I just thought I’d drop in …

(at 11 pm on a Friday night? WTF?)

Maeve: This has got to stop, Hike.

Hike: What?

Maeve: The emailing and dropping in.

Hike: OK.

Maeve: Well, take care.

Hike: Can’t I just talk to you?

Maeve, staring incredulously: NO!

Shuts door and locks it.

1. Hike is still emailing me. We’re past the stage of Random Love Song Lyrics and now well into Denial, in which he sends me random observations from his day, as if we were still dating. I have not replied to any since Monday (the one before the one where he admitted he’d been lying to me). If anything, his response this week convinces me that breaking up was the right thing–seriously, we dated for two months, this response is way way too much. Does he think he’s going to harass me back into a relationship?

No, that wasn’t my question. My question is: Should I be worried? Should I do something? Or do I just keep ignoring him and hope that he eventually stops?

2. I’m corresponding with a really nice guy on an Unspecified Dating Site. He’s tall, he’s in good shape, he’s very smart, he’s funny, we have a lot of common interests, he has a face like a totaled car. How shallow am I for caring about this and is there any point in talking to him when I can’t imagine being attracted to him?

3. Date tonight with someone I’ll call GameBoy, on account of his job developing computer games. We have a decent amount in common and he seems fun and cute and he’s a single dad and plays in a band, so Pea, if she’s reading this, would likely approve. I don’t know if I see him as long-term relationship potential but it should be a fun date. I’m not sure if there is a question on this one. No, wait: it sounds like he had a big rebel phase when he was younger (tattoos, smoking, etc.). I’m about as goody-two-shoes as it gets. What am I thinking? Yes, I think that’s my question.

4. Met a potential friend too, as we both decided we weren’t sure about dating each other but like each other, so … that’s good. Guess there’s no real question for that one.

5. Corresponding with another guy I’ll nickname Gandhi. Seems like a decent enough guy and he even actually likes poetry, all on his own, and not impress me. But he also stalks my profile (visits four or five times a day) and if I take a few hours to respond to an email, will send me another one to remind me. All feels a bit much. He also seems to be in a high-conflict post-divorce situation eerily similar to the Trader’s. He’s not in town this weekend so I won’t meet him for at least another week. Question: can I deal with the drama of the high-conflict post-divorce situation? How about the stalking of the profile?

There are a couple of others, but no one significant right now. My completely unabashed goal is to keep myself busy this summer while PP is at her Dad’s.

6. For the parents among you, when your kid has a cold and a persistent cough afterwards (for a few days, not a few weeks), do you bring them to the doctor or tough it out at home? And how about puffers and antibiotics for treating them?