vendredi, décembre 30, 2011

My dream for you

Sometimes one does not know a hunger until one can name it.

As we have.

Dancing, leaping, anticipating, words spiraling across the screen, icons pale substitutes for the gasp of laughter, the grin of surrender, the mock outrage that forgives in being articulated.

And oh, in passing, the mutual, caged, restrained, diverted desire.

Milton, Chaucer, Greene, Russell...there is nowhere, so far, that you haven't traveled, and sought, and found something of value. Even if I think I get there first, you have already found that place of delight.

Or at least, if you haven't been there, you disguise it well, my fellow fencer.

Though we have so much, the gift is tinctured, as perhaps all the really good ones are, with the reality of distance, and struggle, and of priorities.

What we seek is different, as is what we have found. Except for this tilt, pole to pole, unsought by either.

So as you stumble towards your destiny, and I trip towards mine, we make the words dance and glint and shimmer between us -- as you open to me a part of my soul I didn't even realize I had.

I name it now, and will put it aside again, in the service of reality.

For after all, my child, I am a woman of rubrics, principles and facts.

A set of facts to which I must lash myself (and perhaps lash myself with), like a sailor clinging to a mast, lest I get swept away by the "what might have beens" of dreams.

And for all that, in spite of all that I know, this castle in the sky is for you.


At a table you sit, running your hand abstractedly through your hair, the light glancing off your face, giving birth.

The word eludes you, the word that will say all you want, and no more.

Turning to me, you ask for a synonym, an allusion, an image to nestle softly in between the mortar of your creation.

Without thinking, I provide it -- or you steal it, unscrupulous wretch.

Coming up behind you, hands on your shoulders, I lean against you, feeling your strong frame against mine.

Returning to work, only the crackle of the fire punctuating the silent, grey afternoon, we trust the knowledge that kindred spirits share so effortlessly.

No acolytes here. No leader to follow. The marriage of these minds brooks no impediment.

Later, we will take a walk, hand-in-hand, through the open fields, sometimes in amiable debate, sometimes in silence.

We watch for, seek out, wait for inspiration to arrive.

It will find us -- I, who deal in facts and argument -- you, who take words and weave them into poetic tapestries.

Through a mist of gentle kisses, mirrored in eyes that window the advancing and retreating knowledge we have of one another, we leave the introspection be for another evening.

Work is done for the day.

There are new lands to discover tonight - it is a journey I never signed up for, because no one had ever told me it was possible.

jeudi, décembre 29, 2011

The object of his desires

I've been fending off a fair number of what I'd call smarmy suitors.

They share their fantasies with me (I won't go into the details).

I get to experience the seamy underbelly of Internet life without frequenting porn sites!

Isn't it exciting?

Actually, it's repulsive and boring, if something can be said to be repugnant and anomie-inducing at the same time.

I can tell whether a guy is worth getting to know from his initial approach.

If it's "Wow, you look hot in that bathtub. Can I join you?," the terms of the conversation have already been set.

And, oh, trust me, it gets much cruder than that -- right from the start.

One school of thought might argue that I ought to be flattered. After all, how many middle-aged women get this kind of persistent attention?

I'm just tired of it. It makes me feel like a non-person. I'm really grossed out, to be truthful.

Yet I am the kind of woman (the kind who contradicts herself) who does genuinely enjoy male attention.

But it makes all the difference in the world if it's someone who has gotten to know me -- and someone whom I think is hot, too.

The matter of approach, and of multi-dimensional appreciation, is a make-or-breaker.

And then, as if to shake up my assumptions, I got this email from someone who had looked at my profile (name deleted). He told me he looked at me online and fantasized. I told him that for me, (I apologized for my vanity), that was so yesterday. Then I suggested that he should probably go out and find a real woman.

This is what I received back:

well.... it doesn't really sound arrogant I can imagine the mail you get ... I do have an honest reason for fantasizing .... in 2001 I was the victim of a violent crime, my best friend was killed and I spent 2 years in the hospital and 3 more in a wheelchair, I've been thru hell and back ...... theres been noone breaking my door down for a date .... once n a while when I get lonely I fantasize about making love to a beautiful woman its not gonna happen to me ever again ..... we all say oo yes it will ... I'm smart enough to know it won't I'm scarred from head to toe ..... it gets me down at times but its better to lay in bed and dream of you than the alternative ... your an attractive sexy woman .... thats my story ..... and thats how my life has ended ....

What could I say? I told him he alone, of all of the inept Lotharios who had contacted me, was entitled to fantasies.

And now, I'm going to try to forget the whole discussion took place.

mercredi, décembre 28, 2011

Lament of the over-educated single female

I have a thing for online guys who write me and say "hi" or "hello" as a way of introducing themselves to me.

Not a good thing, either.

Generally, I suspect that they are incapable of carrying on an intelligent conversation.

O.K., I've said it. In that one sentence is wrapped up a host of bias: classism, elitism, and other, more subtle-isms that I choose not to share with you right now.

Thus far, there is only one man who didn't fulfill my expectations in that regard -- and he was totally new to the dating scene. I was his trial run.

I was just a little bored yesterday (plus, it was raining, so I couldn't escape to the savanna and pace like a lion).

No more excuses for my bad behavior.

A man contacted me yesterday, his only introduction one word.

And then, the inevitable "Is there room in the bathtub for me?"

That's the second line that will most accurately predict whether someone has an ounce of creativity in his soul.

I didn't answer that one. Instead, I responded "good afternoon." Just enough. Just to see what I'd get back.

"How are u"?

"Fine" I wrote him. "And you?"

Well, you can see where this is going. No-where, if that can be said to be a place.

"I'd be better if I was with you" came the fast answer.

At that point, I was done toying. "You don't know me. You just know what I appear to be" I wrote him back.

Ouch. There I was, taking out my frustration on a poor schlub who just happened to want to chat with me.

It's hard, to be honest, being an educated woman in an online dating environment. First of all, you have to keep reminding yourself that lots of people hate writing, despise it and fear it with a deadly passion.

Which doesn't mean they are stupid. It could mean almost anything.

And then, if there is enough possibility to begin a dialogue, than you have to figure out what is safe to say. Can you discuss politics? Can you talk about previous relationships? What about religion?

Hopefully by then you have moved on to phone chats. All of those, except for the rare birds who are fluent in online conversation, or programmed to "get" each other's wacky ironies, are dangerous territories.

As the novelist Margaret Drabble (sister to A.S. Byatt) wrote once, one of the legacies of an education is to have all sorts of quotes rattling around in your head (often the attribution is forgotten).

It's delicious to be able to share those with someone.

Is it necessary? Well, I wrestle with that often. Maybe it's a luxury. Maybe I'm too fussy. Maybe it's better to trade quotes.

Then where do I draw the line?

I have no idea.

All I know is that, yesterday, I should have drawn it at "hello."

mardi, décembre 27, 2011

What I really wanted for Christmas

As soon as the holiday was over, perhaps even a minute after midnight (who knows?) our inboxes were flooded with a new set of online advertisements.

One of them, from Road Runner Sports, cajoled me into saving 56% on what I "REALLY wanted for Christmas."

Which REALLY pissed me off.

Getting and spending we lay waste our powers, indeed.

We'd just gone through a consuming frenzy in our house. One child was grateful, the other accepted it as her due (that's another story). After a brief conversation with their father over spending limits, I had meekly given in.

Meanwhile, all over America, one in four kids went to bed hungry.

Did I want to spend MORE money because I felt ungrateful for what I'd been given?

Heck, no.

Yet the gaudy ad (and, I admit, a need for new running shoes) did force me to consider what I really, truly, did want for the New Year.

And here it is, in no particular order. The identity of putative receivers are disguised to protect their anonymity.

I want a friend, adopting a son from a country torn apart by violence, to have him arrive in her loving home soon. Each day without him weighs on her spirit.

I hope for the gift of time and presence for her friend, a young father with four children, fighting a terrible disease. Though I don't know them, they were never far from my thoughts and prayers this holiday.

I'd like the weight of a year of losses to lift from another friend's heart this year, leaving them with peace and wonderful memories.

A dad to have his daughter stay out of the hospital, visits which produce fear and near-death escapes.

For a friend whose quest for love has led them to compromise, I would sprinkle the fairy dust of self-respect. There is more -- so much more.

And for another, lost in a wilderness in which there appears to be no exit, I would light the candles of faith, hope and charity. Faith in the future, hope for winning the battle, and charity towards a self that is bruised and scarred but nonetheless dear.

For me? I'd love to see the New Year bring a healthier relationship with a daughter from whom I feel estranged. I'd like to be less sensitive to slights, real or not-real.

And that's just for starters, a few dives into the themes that crowd my consciousness...but I don't want to be greedy. And I also admit the possibility that, when it comes to my friends, I am wrong in my wishes.

I'm sure you have your own lists, dear friends.

This year, let's try to match up what what we really want with the relationships where we put our insight, energy and emotion.

Then we can blithely ignore those stupid ads, knowing that whatever they say we REALLY need...we know better.

THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 10
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
W. Wordsworth, 1806

dimanche, décembre 25, 2011

Tear down the walls

It's late at night, Christmas Eve.

Actually, it's early in the morning, Christmas Day, a good time to reflect on the place where faith and unbelief intersect.

Being a parent, no matter how organized (I wasn't organized this year) always seems to entail early morning time on Christmas.

In this case, there are presents I haven't wrapped. But since they are in the room where my son is sleeping (we still don't have the rooms sorted yet), I can't get to them.

I'm sitting here, strengthened with hot chocolate, chocolate peppermint JoJos, and chocolate trail mix (notice a theme here?), reflecting on the evening, and listening to English carols.

It was actually a very nice family evening. My ex and I do the holidays together. We started out doing it for the kids, and now it's got to be such a normal thing we don't even cavil anymore.

Bicker, yes. Cavil, not so much.

And I'm thinking, on one of the holiest nights of the Christian year, of how tangential many churches appear to be in reaching out to society.

As faithful,we seem to perpetuate our cultures.

I have experienced this more and more as I engage those outside the arms of the Church.

It used to be that I could count my atheist or questioning friends on the fingers of two hands (not counting my relatives, of course, a wondrously colorful grab-bag of faith and politics.)

Because I had spent so much of my professional life in the womb of the church (or Church), I had become part of the institution.

I see it with friends, all the time. Good people they are, who sometime along their journey began to socialize only with "their" kind -- other Christians.

Idly rifling through Facebook sometimes, I'll see albums of people who seem to mostly hang out with one another -- and wonder if they want to expand their horizons, or are just comfortable with the folks they know.

It's normal, or natural, for that to happen to people, whether they be artists or accountants.

But I wasn't crazy about the notion when it is applied to me, for a couple of reasons.

I don't like living in a cocoon.

It feels inauthentic. And I also believe that all of us need to have friends who challenge us.

Besides, what is the message of the Gospel if it doesn't mean engaging people who don't believe it - not as superiors, but as listeners, as equals?

Jesus never said anything about superiority. Oh wait, he did -- to the religious authorities of his day.

Part of it was running into guys online who had little experience, or negative experiences, with institutional religion.

Another element was the interviews I did for a number of commentary series -- I became more and more fascinated with the choices people make about what to believe.

(As I've said before on these "pages," people do seem to have to put faith in something, whether it's a god or not a god.)

So many of my Facebook journalist friends are indeed Christians -- but they keep a strong professional line between their practice and their jobs. I guess I feel most comfortable there -- a weird thing for an ordained minister to say, I confess.

I'm not drawing conclusions about secularism or atheism, or alternative beliefs, at least not as yet. But I'm enjoying the dialogues. And I'm learning -- always committed to learning.

I still believe that if religious folks don't try to meet others in the bars, in the coffeehouses, in the workplace, the church risks becoming irrelevant.

Not sayin' that I'm good at having these conversations, or even great at being a listener.

Hostility towards Christians as a class bothers me as much as when I experience hostility from Christians about the not-religious. We can't seem to tolerate difference without wanting to throw up the drawbridges.

But I admit, that, occasionally, I am more excited about what's going on outside the walls of the institutional church than I am about what's going on within it.

And if that's the case for me, imagine, Christians, what it feels like to be searching for meaning outside the walls -- and to have already discounted us as a potential source.

My Christmas column

Why do we make a romance out of Christmas, when in the lives of the poor, it could have been any other day -- except for the Incarnation?

Because, possibly, poverty frightens us -- it's particularly scary for the poor. Because it was a long time ago. Because, possibly, poverty isn't something we like to think about.

But, as Bishop McFadden said, Christ has a special love for those who are poor -- and expects that we will take care of them.

There is not much to the Gospel if it is just meant for the those of us who are well to do.

It isn't, perhaps, the Gospel.

vendredi, décembre 23, 2011

Light...and shadows

Heedless of the rain that soaks and ebbs

I walk the path so often taken

The road from which I swerve sometimes

in imagining

A forest of possibilities and

reefs where the unwary might cavort or drown

One, two...fifteen vultures sit in a tree

they do not seem to see me as prey

A part of the landscape, aware of

coming winter, this far away even they

Have a certain loveliness

and still I pace, crunching gravel under sneakers

The damp gradually soaking my hair

blue-eyed-wide intensity

As though as if/if somehow

I could see into your mind

and grasp the power to heal or reconnect

That which is sundered

such arrogance

All I can do is walk this path, alone but the

rabbits and dogs and oh yes, companion vultures

And reach out my hands

embracing light and shadows, virtue and its opposite

Weakness known and strength yet untried

Winter has its own imperative voice

breaking open the most guarded heart

jeudi, décembre 22, 2011

The eroticism of discourse

Now, doesn't that sound like an Eric Rohmer movie?

Rohmer, a product of the Nouvelle Vague, famously liked to have his beautiful young characters talk -- a lot.

Perhaps it's the fact that I saw a few of them in high school that explains my lust (mais oui) for intellectual conversation.

With men.

Not that I don't enjoy a good debate with the intelligent women in my life. Bring it on, sistahs.

My statistics teacher (who made a semester in purgatory just bearable) had never heard anyone ask if validity could be applied to a monkey tribe.

It's just that it doesn't have quite the same charge, somehow.

It's possible that, having grown up in a world of academia still mostly dominated by guys (and tell me that still isn't true, I dare ya) I'm used to them setting the terms of debate -- and responding, agent provocateur that I am.

"Pick me, pick me" said the slightly pudgy girl in the peasant skirts, discussing the double-entendres in Renaissance poetry in a seminar with her highly crushable mentor.

Around our table in the dining room, parquet floors and stained glass relics of a more polite age, politics and history, art and rock music were all blood sports.

The the big 19th-century table where we ate our dinners, though circular, was still dominated by my father, with his multilingual command of history, and his sometimes biting wit.

All speculation aside, I'm starved for conversation with men who can give me a run for my money, intellectually speaking.

It's not that I'm trying to be seductive. It's just that I feel so very alive when my mind is fully engaged.

I know that there are women, and men out there, who feel the same way. There's probably some kind of name for this. Could it be called the New York Review of Books fetish (update that for me, please?)

You know it's gotten bad when the topic of the effective tax rate gets me all shivery inside.

Yet given the polarized state of dialogue in this country on some of the issues that matter the most, I choose my victims carefully.

And while I might find more of them in urban areas, I'm not a kid anymore. I can't hang out in bars with sexy bespectacled guys riffing on Rimbaud and whether Ron Paul would really rid us of the Federal Reserve.


Maybe I'll have to see if the sexy guys come to me.

mardi, décembre 20, 2011

Man-at-war (and the woman who loves him)

Blame it on Mr. Rochester.

Well, a girl's got to have a romantic hero while she's growing up, doesn't she?

It didn't get much better after that.

My romantic hero in my twenties (and probably still, if I'm honest) was a certain noble, Francis Crawford of Lymond.

A Scottish second son, Lymond traveled all over Western Europe and the Arab world (back in the sixteenth century this involved ships, swordplay and harems) wrestling with his past. And oy, did this sexy blonde guy have a past.

It didn't prevent him from seducing, and even fathering a few children with a succession of women (some of whom met unfortunate ends) until, at last, he met up with his true love, who was actually from his past...

But that's a whole other story. In fact, that's five whole other books of roughly 500 pages long. I highly recommend all of them.

Just don't let them influence your idea of the ideal man.

Don't be too hard on me, o.k.?

Some women go for the "bad boys." Others of my sex yearn for guys who can take them to expensive restaurants.

I have a thing for conflicted men.

Probably the quickest way into my heart, if you are a man, is to confess to struggling with some problem. It should be one that's occupying a lot of your time, or wounded you in some way.

It shouldn't be life-threatening.

But it should be just tough enough to give you that slightly careworn, Byronic air that hints of secret sorrows.

You think I'm joking?

Just take a look at my resume.

Now, most of these haven't blossomed into full-scale relationships. And before you draw any conclusions, ofttimes that decision was mine.

In fact, it's highly debatable as to whether many of these guys were really ready to have relationships.

I'll leave that to wiser heads -- many of us keep therapists in business.

All I know is my weakness for the man who, while successful in his career, and stable in the rest of his life, struggles with an unresolved conflict.

One of the wonderful blessings in my life is that a few of these men are friends -- old friends, new friends, somewhere-in-between.

Some of them have resolved the issues they had when we met, and moved on to other issues. Some of them continue to grapple -- because it is part of their personality to wrestle with big questions.

I'm a wrestler myself myself -- so perhaps it's a case of like being drawn to like.

I dunno. All I can say (hey, it's late at night) is that, instead of liking my men a little on the trashy side, I like them a little bruised.

Not enough to be ugly, mind. Just enough to draw my empathy -- and my quixotic, nurturing heart.

lundi, décembre 19, 2011

A woman of inconvenient principles

Yes, I have principles.

They just lurk way outside the box, like the rest of me.

They also tend to crop up at strange times.

Just because I am congenitally not quick to judge (I believe there's something vaguely biblical about this), does not mean that I am without any internal monitor.

Let me amend that statement.

I judge the U.S. Congress, the poor quality of Hershey's chocolate, and the length of my daughter's skirts all the time.

But people's lifestyle choices? Not so fast.

In part, this is due to my abiding curiosity as to why people chose to live the way they do.

I figure that I darn well better understand it, at least from the outside, before I say much about it. And, as a writer, I'd rather describe it from the inside out, so that you have enough information to make your own judgments.

But put me at a party with an orthodox Democrat, and I'll become the conservative moralist -- in part, because I am the spawn of generations of moralists. A devout conservative?

Given the chance, I'll start ranting about the "too big to fail" banks and climate change (an issue on which I am irritatingly consistent).

So what are my principles, such as they are? A few are simple, and this list is by no means exhaustive. I suspect that you share most of them.

Be kind. There's an awful lot of meanness out there.

Be generous.

Think before you speak.

Turn love into a verb of action.

Use the phone and in-person meet-ups in addition to email, texting, and other toys.As I watch my daughter online, I worry that she won't have the communication skills to handle "real" life.

Compromise when possible.

Politicians in Washington have made a mockery of the idea, and yet it is essential if we are going to thrive as a society.

Extend your hand. Apologize first.

Be gracious, whether the cards fall your way or they do not.

But what happens when you have gone as far as you can go -- and the distance between you and a friend, neighbor or spouse still yawns?

Don't sell yourself out.

I am determined that no one mistake my attempts to be kind as weakness of character.

As I've noted before, as we grow older, we become more and more the people we are going to be the rest of our lives. Though I want to stay nimble, I have no desire to become a cloak spread across the mud for someone to step on.

Which is why I seem to end up having the "no friends with benefits" conversation so often. If a guy really likes me, he's going to hang in there (or may never bring it up initially to begin with). If he wants something more superficial, he'll move on to seek lower-hanging fruit.

If a coworker, a friend or a lover can't handle the authentic person you are, you both have something to work on. Sometimes you have no choice.

Often, the choice is yours.

Because I'm such an inquisitive (nosy?) person, I often come crashing into my principles, rather than easing up to them.

You may be less curious -- and more sane. It's simpler that way.

Sometimes the box isn't meant to confine you, but to protect.

I just don't know what I'd learn about human nature if I stayed there.

dimanche, décembre 18, 2011

Set him/her free

Stop clinging.
Open your hands wide.
Let someone move away from you if she or he wants to walk.

This isn't an easy lesson to learn.
It really is a relational paradox.
But it is proved accurate, at least in my life, again and again.
If someone doesn't feel free to leave, then he or she isn't really at liberty to stay.

The more emotion we use, whether it be with a child or with a lover, to engage them and keep them standing in one place, the more they really want to scram.

As we grow up, we sometimes find that dependency appears to pay dividends -- it makes people worry that we won't be o.k. if they need some distance, or maybe even need to take a break from a relationship.

"He or she won't be able to cope if I leave." How many times have you heard that?

Then there are the folks who continue to battle with their ex-spouses or girlfriends long after the relationship is really over.

It's a way of staying connected, but it means they are never truly free to move forward with another person.

It's even harder when you do care about someone.

Parents and children find striking the right balance very tough. I know that I have, with my daughter. For years I took her frustration personally, and as a reflection of my failure as a parent.

Now, though I'm not a model of balance, I try to step back and not simply react -- to leave space for her to feel her own emotions, instead of feeling mine.

When it comes to romance, I have also learned not to cling. This may be easier for me than others, because I crave and relish independence. It's actually harder for me to reach out than it is to be alone, which is why I need to keep working on connecting.

But at least I know, when I sense myself becoming vulnerable to someone, whether it be a friend or a potential "more" to back off, and allow them to make their own choices.

They aren't honest ones if you make them for someone else.

Sooner or later, he or she is going to wake up and realize they've been manipulated.

And you'll be alone -- because he or she needs to have reasons to stay that are wholly their own.

Which leaves you free to become the guy or the woman you want to be -- one capable of meeting them in-between, adult-to-adult, with a sparkle in your eye, mischief in your smile, and the excitement of moving forward, and not sideways.

Of course, there are also those who can't commit...but that's another blog post...

vendredi, décembre 16, 2011

Feed me

Feed me with shared sunrises, silent before the twice a day magic of its rising and sinking.

With feta and olives at night after a day spent paring slowly the lists that fill our days.

A hand held out after a hike over rugged terrain, until at last we arrive at the peak, speechless.

The sparkle of a heated debate on politics and art and even sometimes religion, done without bitterness.

Feed me with tenderness.

Knowing the places where I limp, you will not trip me up, but place your hand there for a moment, gentle as the kiss of a spring breeze.

I will do the same for you.

We will be merciful to one another, small irritants serving only to polish our edges like exotic marble.

Our arms at night a haven -- and a carnival ride.

Feed me with the truth.

In lofty phrases when we engage in the disputes that beguile and seduce our straying minds.

In self-mockery and sweet admonition that causes me to burst out in surprised laughter.

A vision that stretches, searches and complements my own sometimes skeptical one.

You, another traveler met fortuitously on the road. Me, a dusty pilgrim, lifting my near-sighted eyes to see with you, and through yours, alone and together as we tread the rocky, gorgeous byways.

jeudi, décembre 15, 2011

Docility in relationships: a fatal flaw?

Know how you are positive that you "aren't" something -- but you aren't sure what that "something" is?

As a child, I was a voracious reader (back when reading was actually practiced by more than a small number of Luddites).

So I'd figure out what a word meant in context -- which meant that I often got it slightly wrong. Often, now, when my son asks me what a word means (he's the same type of reader) I am curious as to what it actually means -- so I go look it up.

Here's a great definition for docility -- "the trait of being agreeably submissive and manageable."

Could this definition in any way be construed to apply to me?

I guess I could, under certain circumstances, be agreeably submissive.

But manageable? Heck no.

We carry certain traits from our past, certain habits that crop up again and again in multiple relationships.

If we had a critical parent, say, we might have found that being meek kept us out of the way of his or her anger.

We might have tried to blend into the walls, so that we might not be noticed.

Possibly we might find ourselves expecting that our children will also be docile.

I was a well-behaved child (which doesn't help me much in today's more open society). But I was also a quiet subversive.

If you were one of those kids, you know that with a little intelligence, you can get around the system.

The feisty females who were so much a part of my upbringing were strikingly intellectually independent of male influence.

Well, of anybody's influence.

It's not that we didn't have men around. My dad, for example, was a very strong character. It's just that we didn't think they got to make all the rules.

That leads to, shall we say, a certain eccentricity of mind.

Being kind can open doors.

Being meek? Not so much.

If you have found meekness adaptive, I am willing to admit that docility may benefit you. In fact, I can see many situations where it may pay dividends. I just can't see it working as a ploy forever.

Maybe it's because I'm just so damned bad at it.

mercredi, décembre 14, 2011

On the topic of love

Something you said got me thinking -- as it so often does.

And it wasn't even something you said to me, but to one of your many readers, so eager to share their praise, insights, or sometime criticism with you.

We get waylaid, you and I, by the need to voice the obvious -- which has not seemed to dull with repetition, but to sharpen, rather.

Can a lover indeed benefit the beloved, as you opined recently -- without trying to change him or her?

I wondered -- even if the lover doesn't intend to change the subject of her or his affections, isn't that person altered anyway?

Sometimes love isn't even experienced as love.

As a parent, I have learned that what I can offer my older child right now feels to her like restraint instead of affection. To her, love is often measured in what I can give her, rather than in less material ways.

Yet I do believe that my proffer of boundaries and discipline will come to seem, when she is old enough to understand why, like a gift.

Whether it will change her or not, I am not sure.

And I also believe (although in this I may be a bit delusional) that love can heal.

Love that doesn't drink at the waters of Lethe, but acknowledges the wounds of the past. Love that is received by the beloved in the spirit in which it is meant. Love that doesn't seek to bind or constrain.

I see that to this enticing notion I have added some pretty difficult caveats.

To be human is to be challenged to practice love again and again, even when you feel bruised and terrified and cynical.

Those are all human emotions, too. We are muddled and oft un-analytical creatures, acting on emotions and ideas we don't really pause to understand.

But we are capable.

Back to you, my friend.

The territory of conversation you and I haven't covered stretches out before us, opening new vistas as far as the eye can see.

Like a butterfly, I chose to alight here today, in between the tasks that call me.

Thank you.

mardi, décembre 13, 2011

When does a house become a home? The first shower? (Or the 30th?)

As molding goes on, tiles get cemented to the floor, and the heat actually starts to work, the house is taking shape around us.

My bedroom ceiling is painted a bright Provencal blue. At night I lie in bed and stare out at the trees through the big glass doors, currently bare of curtains (details to come).

Sometimes it feels as if I am sleeping outside, the stars and moon illuminating the bed.

In a week or so, the spiral staircase will arrive, linking the downstairs to the upstairs.

Although pretty much every finishing in the house was purchased on sale or after a hard bargain, I have ended up spending the most money in the bathrooms -- and they look it. The pink-tiled shower, green onyx vanity and grey marble floor in the upstairs bathroom are lovely.

I can't wait to use the shower.

I am only now beginning to feel like this house is really going to become a home for us.

Even the two cats have reverted to their old ways -- meowing oddly in the night until we tell them to shut up, chasing each other around the house, sleeping at the foot of our beds. After months in the basement, our black and white male cat would like to sleep most of his day away on my lap.

But since I'm not about to turn into a crazy cat lady, I don't allow that.

It's just that our felines think I'm a crazy cat lady.

Among one of the really dumb questions in an online dating site I saw recently was: "would you date someone who owned a cat?" To which one smart guy responded: "WTF? Who "owns" a cat?"

Even as I write, my old friend Tad is here to paint the upstairs ceiling. Because the house is two stories high now in the loft area, it is the architectural element that ties the upstairs and downstairs together.

Oh, don't I sound hoity-toity. I'm not, you know. There is some risk involved here, both financial and emotional -- at least for me, with my conservative ways.

But I'm hoping that the gain will be more than the cost. And it's getting to the point where
I can imagine this being the case.

Particularly when I look at the trees, or the kid's rooms, the dining room, and imagining parties and intimate dinners, showers and glasses of wine on the deck.

Happy times. Maybe some sad times. And times to chase that elusive sense contentment.

Or maybe just to await it.

I think I can manage that!

dimanche, décembre 11, 2011

Vienna, whipped cream (mit Schlagsahne) and "you"

Gustav Klimt 016

Vienna is a place whose charms have grown on me.

As a child traveling around Western Europe with her parents, it was, as I recall, the place we had spaghetti with sugar (can this be right?).

Growing up, the fabled Austrian city was the setting of the Trapp Family Singers escape from under the very eyes of the Nazis.

As a young adult, I loved the romantic aura of the city where Sigmund Freud met Sherlock Holmes in the "Seven-Percent-Solution."

But it wasn't until I saw the city as two young lovers roamed around it in "Before Sunrise" that its glories really came to life for me.

I loved the way that they talked...and talked...and talked some more, the cafe's and the churches and the bridges over the Danube a backdrop for their journey of self-discovery.

I don't usually think of the Austrians as a romantic race (ok, I'll give you Gustav Klimt), but that movie gave me a whole new view of the town.

So sometimes I wonder...with whom would I like to wander around Vienna -- if I can't get Ethan Hawke to take me?

With whom would I drink hot chocolate with whipped cream...or just skip the hot chocolate?

With whom would I abandon the superego, at least temporarily, and admit Freud was right about that naughty id?

I have a few ideas.

vendredi, décembre 09, 2011

To jump...or not.

I used to avoid the idea of dating a never-married man -- if one would contact me, I'd nicely inform him that we suffered from a bad case of incompatible lifestyles.

It's one thing to be not-married at thirty.

It's quite another to have never jumped the broom at fifty.

But what "quite another' is it?

There could be all sorts of reasons why someone hasn't gotten married.

They fell in love a number of times, but never felt certain enough to dedicate themselves to one person.

They had responsibilities to parents or others that meant they didn't feel right about taking on a new partner.

They weren't mature enough at the time.

They were committed to a career, and are now waking up to the notion that life is short.

And let's face it -- not all of us should have gotten married. My ex and I have made lemonade out of lemons, but it hasn't always been simple, or easy.

If kids are the best product of a union that went south, was that union a good choice? That's one of those questions I can't answer. I would say yes, but I wouldn't say "yes" for you.

I respect men or women who know they can't handle a relationship, or know they need time to heal from a bad one, and stay out of one. Why inflict more pain?

To some mid-life women and men, the lack of a romantic relationship is a problem they must solve -- instead of a chance to get to know themselves better and figure out what went wrong.

So they run the risk of ending up, when the narcotic wears off, of ending up in a feedback loop of broken romances.

To others, like me, it's scarier to enter into another one, and possibly make mistakes that could also inflict distress on me and someone else.

I am less and less inclined to be defined by someone else's insecurities or traumas.

Overly cautious? Indeed. I run the risk of not experiencing love.

I'm not sure what that looks like as I move on. Does it mean a less committed, possibly more superficial relationship?

I don't know. For someone with a degree in deep, that's a scary prospect.

Darn, middle-age is tough. We trail our history and doubts and dreams with us, experienced as the most jaded rake, and naive as teenagers.

I can't speak for the married -- as I know from having been in one, marriage is also defined by the individuals in it.

But for me, I know that I'm trying to stay limber -- I don't have to be his "little woman" to be engaged by a man I respect.

Even when I hobble, I hobble with determination.

mardi, décembre 06, 2011

Hot bod, agile mind, kind heart: what's not to like?

One thing - he is an expatriate from the North living in the land of the Tarheels -- and I am here.

Somehow he stumbled on to my profile. I don't know how. Because of my household responsibilities, I am rigid about not looking beyond a certain circumference.

He gave my dating c.v. the virtual dating good housekeeping seal of approval.

When I read his profile, a few things stood out. He's a darned good writer (like me, he's a "creative"). He's whimsical and doesn't mind going off on tangents. He's literate and smart.

And oh -- did I mention -- he is better looking than someone with those other natural gifts has any right to be.

I have a thing for tallish slender guys with glasses and laugh lines around their eyes. They make me a little crazy.

I decided to shoot him an email. Almost immediately, we were deep into (virtual) conversation about pretty much anything that comes to mind.

And we really haven't stopped.

Both of us lead very busy lives. He's got kids, a demanding professional world, and an active social calendar.

And if you are reading my blog regularly, you know about my world.

He likes to make me blush. I like to tease him back.

A few weeks ago, after asking me whether I wanted to receive it, he sent me a photo.

Let's say that it left a lot to the imagination. And neither of us are slackers in that regard (imagination-wise).

He looks amazing -- someone who works hard to keep his body in shape. Boy, does it show.

I didn't respond in kind. Like I really needed to say that?

Yet both of us are camera hogs, and there are probably pictures of us in some FBI file in D.C.

I just hope they have the flattering ones.

We both enjoy our conversations. It's darned tough to be witty online, particularly when you have a pro on either end of the dialogue.

But he makes me laugh. I seem to have the same effect on him.

I'm not his usual demographic, he told me. A bit younger, he tends to attract women like bees to flowers. Now and then we share stories.

We're both complicated people, with ghosts and shadows. We dance around those, but also acknowledge them.

And while sometimes we give in, we avoid, as he said to me yesterday, the predictable and degrading course this kind of friendship could take.

Honestly, I think we like each other too much to fall easily.

Will we ever meet? I don't know. We are far away from each other. He's seeking true love closer to home. Neither of us is wealthy enough to fund frequent flights.

As for me, I'm not sure what I'm seeking, but in that we may be more alike that I am willing to admit right now.

I'd like to meet up. I think about it -- as I said, both of us have a surfeit of imagination.

Right now, I'm willing to wait and see what happens.

And be thankful that I sent that email.

There's blood in Marian, Madame Librarian yet. And he sometimes gets it leaping.

dimanche, décembre 04, 2011

I'm Elizabeth, and I'm an addict. You may be one, too.

It was a bright, lovely fall day on Saturday -- but you probably noticed that.

The recipient of a few hours of leisure time while my son filmed himself re-enacting the battles of Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, I went for a long walk around Springton Manor Farm.

Now owned by the county, the farm was once, so I've heard, owned by two single ladies who left its many acres of hills and streams to people like us to enjoy. I often wander down there, and while hiking around, say a brief prayer of thanks to those long-gone women for their generosity to me and the rest of the hoi polloi.

We're so fortunate to live where we do. If I'd been been less tense yesterday, I would have been more able to take in the pure gift of the water and the breeze and the light.

Instead, I was like one of the warriors in "Braveheart" or in the Civil War battle that my son was filming -- on guard, distracted, worried about a threat that I would not see coming, and searching for it anyway.

But there was no threat in that cloud-studded sky.

I am a stress addict.

Argue whether or not it's my fault -- coping with six months of medical crises, the challenges of parenting a daughter in full-scale adolescent rebellion and a clever mind she doesn't choose to use, living in a house where I have no authority, and the day to day problems of looking for work would be stressful for anyone.

And then there is the fact that when it comes to relationships, I am both overly cautious and perhaps not careful enough. Who knows? Why should I think myself exempt from the human condition? Everyone acts foolish now and again.

Sometimes two people do it together.

Meet Elizabeth, who let her heart rule her head and got hurt. Lesson learned.

The fact is, though, that life is improving. The house will be done within a month or so. The kid's dad is getting better (though he's also less willing to take on the parenting fray). Whether my daughter chooses to do her or work or not is up to her -- all I can control is my reaction. Growing into a young woman of striking loveliness, she has been given much raw material with which to sculpt a life.

Perhaps maturity will enable her to grasp the nettle with both hands.

And my son continues to be a source of almost unalloyed joy, not solely because he reminds me so often of the mother and great-grandmother I adored.

So why am I constantly on guard, increasingly plagued by the migraines that used to visit once a year?

Because, right now, that's what I know. Because where once I used to self-medicate with food, I find that doesn't satisfy me. Because I'm not much of a drinker. Because I never took up smoking.

Because I haven't had either the discipline, or the drive (until now) to be otherwise.

And because, probably, I was born wired. Anxiety is a family trait.

Recently, I've been reading Mary Karr's autobiographical "Lit." It's the story of her often tragic family life, and her struggle to medicate away the pain with booze and a crushing lack of esteem for herself and those around her.

Her recovery is based (as I read it), in part, on accepting that her mind, her questions, her snotty over-intellectual attitude get in the way of self-acceptance, of forgiveness, and of God-acceptance.

There's an urgency and discipline in the last part of the book the reverbrates in me, like the tinkling of a Buddhist prayer bell.

It is time.

Time to reach for health.

Time to embrace pleasure, whether I fall across it, or someone offers it. Unless, of course, they live in the South (smile).

Time to accept that right now, I am in this place -- and that it gives me a lot to work with.

Time to trust the good in myself -- and in others.

I don't know if any of what I have written finds an echo in your heart -- but if it does, carpe diem.

For now, as Jon Kabat-Zinn reminded me virtually this morning -- now is all the time we have been given to work with.

Make the most of each moment.

samedi, décembre 03, 2011

A Mormon primer

As I started a series on the Mormon faith, I realized how little I knew (beyond the controversies) about day to day Mormon life.

One of the great things about being a writer is that you can pursue a topic -- and often get paid to go deeper.

Even if you avoid reading about your own denominational polity, it may be a good idea to bone up on Mormon faithlife. You never know when someone is going to ask. I think.

mercredi, novembre 30, 2011

Why (torrid) instant messaging makes me crazy


This isn't really about torrid instant messaging -- although we'll get there for a few lines near the end of this post.

My apologies to those who decided to read this just for the parenthesis.

I have a larger target: instant messaging in general.

Today I was rifling through a few dating profiles before I returned to my commentary on Mormons (a particularly dry one, I might add -- we get to the hot stuff in a few weeks).

A fellow pinged me -- he wanted to chat.

I didn't want to chat. But he had sent me a particularly nice email this week, and I felt bad about turning him down after I'd thanked him for the email.

So I signed in for twenty minutes or so of slow agony.

I'm a fast woman, quick with the puns and the questions and the sometimes stupid jokes.

He wasn't -- it took him about three minutes to respond to my comments.

Telling me that I was a procrastinator and a "kindred spirit" was the last straw.

Perhaps, I said. But I'm going back to work.


By and large, I find instant messaging clunky, slow and difficult.

How many times have you wondered if the person on the other end was serious -- or had actually intended to be funny?

How many "grins" and "smiles" and 'lols" can you use in one chat?

What if you've really ticked someone off, and they are annoyed? Or what if you discover after you have apologized profusely that they weren't mad at all?

Because I'm incorrigibly curious, I find myself, at the end of a conversation, starved for information.

Were theytruly enjoying the chat? What else were they doing while chatting with me? Did they feel a need to return to work, but were too polite to tell me? Were they getting sleepy...very sleeeepy?

What weren't they saying? What would I have known if I'd seen them face to face?

Chill is easy to read in a virtual chat -- but warmth is harder to telegraph.

Generally, it helps to have a context. My friend Mollie and I can pretty much pick up where we left off, even if we left off a few weeks or a month before.

It also helps if the person on the other end is a good writer. Boy, does it help.

Sometimes it's even intuitive.

If you know someone, even if you haven't talked for quite a while, nature can take over. A rhythm come back with astonishing ease. There is some knowledge that transcends even the clumsy oafs on either side of their computers.

Banter is possible online. But you have to be really good at it to get your point across or you are trying so hard you can practically see the smoke and mirrors.

And if someone doesn't want to move from online talk to the cell phone or landline, it is possible that they aren't serious about wanting to get to know you better.

In which case, perhaps you shouldn't be, either.

Now, as to those torrid chats. You realize, of course, that you have to adjust your definition of torrid to accommodate someone more familiar with Victorian poetry than modern sexual mores.

Think reticent fourth-grader.

Once you have done that, I can proudly say that I've had a few with someone clever, and very audacious. Happy am I that no one was here to see my slightly maidenly blushes.

In addition, in my past, I have exchanged some emails that came close to messaging, so fast did they fly across our lines.

But all they did, in the end, was to intensify the thirst I felt to look into someone's eyes, hear his voice, have him wrap his arms around me.

It was like eating a Hershey's bar when you crave Belgian chocolate.

I am not a big fan of messaging, as perhaps you have discerned.

That doesn't mean I'll stop using it.

But it does mean that I'll continue to be careful about how, and when...and, of course, where I use it.

I wouldn't want my kids to see me blush -- or fall asleep at the monitor.

mardi, novembre 29, 2011

Too smart for her own good seeks good and smart

Some of my would-be suitors are nuts. Some are, let us say, salacious. Some, I fear, must be smoking something a little "tropic,"-- like the guy from New England who thought it would be great to meet up for a series of romantic "rendezvous."

The New England coast in wintertime? My dear, you have got to be kidding.

Last night I got an email from a man who wanted to meet me that was actually painful to read.

Here it is: "You are way smarter than I am, & you will likely think that I have trouble verbalizing my thoughts (because I do). I enjoyed reading your profile which clearly displays your gift of writing, and what you are seeking in a man. I do posses some of the qualities which you describe, but not most. I thought I'd take a chance and write to you in the hopes that you occasionally like to dumb it down a bit. If you review my profile and find even one thing which could possibly put us on a level playing field, I'd be happy to hear back from you."

I felt so bad for this guy -- and I felt a little bad for myself. Again and again (perhaps three times a week) I hear from men who aren't as vulnerable, nor as touching, nor as, frankly, poignantly realistic as the man who emailed me. Before I try to find words to gently say "no thanks" I shake my head and ask myself -- what was going through theirs?

Before I hear from a stream of folks criticizing my elitist attitude, let me be clear that not having a degree isn't a sign of lack of intelligence. Having a child with ADD, and knowing painfully the awful cost of going on for a degree, I'm very aware that lots of people don't go on to college for a multitude of reasons.

So it's not (although sometimes it is) about the degree. It's really about using your head and heart to investigate the world around you.

As I try to recalibrate my life with a full plate (renovated house, renovated educational credentials, full-scale search for paying writing work, teen children), I am realizing that, generally speaking, I need to be with someone who shares some of my intellectual interests.

And it's not even that I am that intelligent. In a lot of ways, I am merely ornamental, or even a bit hazardous.

I recall Al Gore (who, of course, had motive to be mean) saying that George Bush (43) was one of the most "incurious" men he'd ever met. I want a "curious" one (and I don't mean just an eccentric man).

Men oftentimes seem a lot less fussy about what's upstairs. People get into relationships, generally speaking, for a multitude of reasons.

Truth be told, I've run into lots of bright guys online who use their generous helping of grey matter for questionable purposes. I scare myself sometimes with the notion that perhaps I'm going to morph into someone who has walled off their feelings, too.

But I am too far gone down the intellectual trail I've been on to spend my Saturdays riding Harleys without a helmet and attending yard sales.

If I'm going to get into trouble without a helmet, at least I'll do it with a craft beer in one hand, and some decadent poetry in the other.

Feet firmly on the ground, that is. Because, for sure, the rest of me is not.

samedi, novembre 26, 2011

Affection and heartache, one year on

Once there was a middle-aged woman who saw herself as the soul of commonsense and moderation. She guarded her feelings as though they were precious jewels.

To indulge in drama, in the ups and downs of male-female relationships and to fail (for that was how she saw it) could have an impact on her relationship with her children -- and they came first.

She saw enough of that silliness around her -- men and women coming and going as children got attached and then abandoned.

With a bit of pride, she thought "I will not be that kind of parent." And it wasn't as if on her infrequent dates (she was very finicky) a man had swept her off her feet with his charm.

She was to find out that, at least in her case, that wasn't the way it worked.

He had recently suffered a significant break-up (details blurred for the sake of privacy). His dating profile was posted, he freely admitted, to salve some wounded pride. What did she have to lose by meeting him?

Simply a dinner out with a new potential friend.

When they met, for a casual dinner in a local Thai restaurant the week after Thanksgiving, he gave the impression of being stunned. Tears in his eyes, those of a person who has suffered a great grief, belied his words about moving on.

While they had a shared passion for the written word, they worked in completely different fields. An avowed atheist, he had little time for organized religion, seeing it as the root of many social evils. When she confessed that not only was she religious, but an ordained minister as well as a journalist, she waited for the conversation to skid to an abrupt halt, and was surprised when it did not.

She liked his humility. His tears touched her. She enjoyed his intellect. It became clear that his children adored him, always a gold standard for her.

But that's where it stopped that night.

He wanted to see her again -- just as friends, they agreed. Again, and again, as the months went by, she teasingly assured him that she didn't think he was ready to date.

The veteran of many, many more relationships than she, he was of another mind.

The conversations on the phone grew longer, going well into the evening. Emails would fly back and forth, their frequency increasing day by day.

She had the sense, in those early days, that he sometimes turned to women for guidance with his romantic life -- women who would blithely interpret other women for him, telling him where to file them. That wasn't her m.o.

The very things that divided them became chances for discussion, for new understanding and laughter. They seemed to be larger, more tolerant, more grown-up when they shared their differences with each other.

They seemed to turn each other, sometimes, into better people.

She challenged him. He came back at her without rancor.

They didn't always speak the same language, but they taught each other new words.

She didn't notice when she started to have more than sisterly feelings for him. Because, if she hadn't, why did they have to have the obligatory sex conversation (s)? If she was just a friend, why did she keep an ear attuned for the women he was dating, and how seriously he took them?

She didn't care became...she could wait. Wait for him to deal with the devastation of the relationship gone so terribly wrong, with the wounds to his confidence and his faith in women. She was good at waiting. It's not as though she needed to study for the role.

A few kisses, some movies, nights out -- a growing affection in the midst of the tempest that was his life (thank you, Prospero).

On a sunny, warm spring day, light flooding the windows of her daughter's bedroom, she stared out the window as he said that he'd like to start spending more time with her, to find out if there was a possibility of creating more than a friendship. O.K., she said. I'm scared, she added. I don't know anything about romantic relationships.

There is more, but it was between them.

And then, swiftly, the landscape changed again. Woe betide those who underestimate the lure of the raven, his Bellatrix Lestrange, Mr. Rochester's "sweet demon. "

She wanted back into his life.

One evening of escape together, playing at being a couple at a charity benefit, the night flowing by without effort, making it seem easy.

One night.

The would-be daters agreed that it would be best if they had no contact (for the sake of privacy, I will not go into the details, for this is my version, not his) while he figured out what to do about the other woman. She had a prior claim.

But it was in that month apart that things changed definitively. In so many ways. Watching him writ large, she walked the hills of her town alone and cried, day after day, the pounds slipping off her bones like unwanted weight on her spirit.

As it turns out, his lover was just toying with him. Perhaps she couldn't stand the idea that someone else found him desirable.

No matter. When their inevitable (as it turns out) breakup came, he was also a different man.

It took his friend a while to figure that out.

One evening they spoke on the phone, the hours sliding by with their old ease. She seemed to feel, he chided her, as if they could pick right up where they left off. He needed freedom. He needed to date other women. He needed to figure out who he was in the wake of the breakup of his prior very long-term relationship.

She agreed. Based on what she'd observed while he was under the spell of the blackbird, she also wasn't sure what to think, she told him. They would work it out, he said.

A week and a half later, it all fell apart. She didn't have everything he wanted, he said.

She didn't become aware until later, when she saw an anniversary date on Facebook, that he had already begun to date the woman with whom he is now planning a life.

Our friend, who had little acquaintance with magic, wondered how else to understand this ease, banter, insight, and lack of defensiveness.

Now she doesn't trust herself to know real tenderness from the chimerical kind.

She doesn't know anymore what constitutes a healthy relationship.

She still believes it's about change and growth and passion.

What that looks like for her, she's not sure. At least for now, she is attempting to define it differently. She, too, is changed.

She is pretty sure of one thing, however.

He won't remember that they met a year ago.

Driving down a crowded road towards the local mall the day before Thanksgiving, streets clogged with holiday shoppers, tears spring to her eyes, and a sob escapes her lips. What an interesting reversal - she's in tears and he's madly in love.

And she doesn't even know why she weeps.

After all, she's moved on, too.

Bad timing, with her daughter in the car, her daughter who sees so much and understands so little about adult love and friendship. "What's going on, Mom?" she asks.

Quickly she spins an amusing, distracting story, hoping that the child will forget the sad and recall the bizarre.

A year, and so much has happened. Maybe, in time, she will see the time they spent together as a gift. She wants to be there so badly -- not to wait.

But she can't speed up her steps anymore. So here's to anniversaries. Even when they don't exist.

jeudi, novembre 24, 2011

A "woman for others" tries to find herself

Last night I told a perfectly decent potential date that if I said I was available, I'd be doing him a disservice.

He lives an hour from me, you see. He wasn't put off by that comment. So I wrote him back and put it in black and white on the screen. I'm free Friday and Saturday, I told him (I didn't mention that right now, due to my ex's weakness following his treatment, I'm not sure I could promise him that).

I haven't heard from him again.

I don't go to conferences. I don't belong to the RNA, where I'd see colleagues. When I go somewhere, it's normally because one of my children has to be there.

This past four months or so, I haven't even seen my friends.

It's time to grow up, I think.

I'm not sure that my monastic life is entirely a product of all of the outside strain this past six months, though that hasn't made it simpler.

With my ex being sick, it's been the perfect excuse to hide out, turning down the invitations I get because the kids need me.

And, I confess, I'm afraid. What if something happens when I'm in another city at a meeting? What if something happens to a child and I'm on a date in another town, the woman who never abandons her kids?

What if I turn into someone incredibly self-centered?

I torment myself with the "what-ifs, " building a cage around me that is both tight -- and feels safe.

But life is too short to sit at home and wait for outside circumstances to change.

There are moments when not to change is to paddle backwards.

I think I may be at one of those points.

To trust that I can move outside the campfire is not solely to trust my own abilities -- but to trust those of my children, and my ex-husband.

In family, in work, and in matters of the heart, there are times to be bold and determined.

I'm looking for my life as a writer, as a colleague, as a friend, and as a lover -- I know it's here, somewhere. I may not be totally free, but I am freer than perhaps, most days, I dare to wonder.

mardi, novembre 22, 2011

A threesome before coffee?

Sitting in front of my computer screen, I'm in the kitchen of my house.

Envision the scene -- it's early. Well, before nine o'clock, anyway. This girl hasn't even had her first cup of coffee.

Make that tea.

There's all kinds of banging and talking going on throughout the house as the contractor and his associates put down hardwood floors upstairs.

O.k., so don't try to envision the scene. Just trust me that it's chaos -- and I'm not a morning person.

It's certainly too early to get into another conversation about threesomes.

But I do -- because the fellow is a friend, and because I'm fascinated ( I'm a journalist, remember?) that so many men in the online dating biz are focused on them.

As I've said here before, I have led a very chaste life.

Don't judge, alright (sticks out her tongue). I don't really get the full dimensions of the current sexual/romantic/dating landscape out there.

But I can't tell you how many guys have raised this issue with me - often as an opening gambit.

R U Kidding?

I'm forced to confront a few possibilities.

Men my age (give or take a decade) had such boring sex lives while married that they want to spice them up.

Men my age routinely have sex with more than one person (not very likely).

Men my age want to do the menage thing so they can talk to other geezers about it in thirty years or so in the retirement community.

Men my age think I'm a likely candidate for a threesome.

The last idea is jaw-dropping to me.

Read my profile, I tell them, just like I do the guys who ride Harleys. Read my profile -- don't just look at the pictures.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. With some guys when we get part the initial exam, we can go on to the syllabus.

I have to say, though, that it makes me wonder what my friend's husbands are asking them at home.

Trust me...I'm not about to ask you.

dimanche, novembre 20, 2011

The allure of a middle-aged woman

"Who are we? Talented younger man seeks daring, confident older woman.. for electrifying,non-traditional, lasting relationship as dear friends, confidants and lovers. I am seeking a strong older woman who has the confidence and desire to meet a good and decent younger man. I find a woman who has that certain mature and "knowing" look far more appealing. You have lived enough of your life to know what you want, and you are not afraid to go after it. You desire a man who can satisfy you on all levels, emotionally, spiritually and physically. You have an inner beauty that exudes to the outer being. You are sensual and sexy, and you know that "sexy" has more to do with the mind than with the body. You know you deserve the best that life has to offer. You have a youthful outlook, a thirst for adventure. You know you can keep my attention and interest.”

I wasn't daring enough to write the guy who viewed my dating profile.

No matter.

This weekend, the universe seems to be conspiring to tell me that to some younger guys, femmes d'un certain age are hot, hot, hot.

I needed to hear this. I still have moments of heart-ache, though I've gotten some good medicine for the hurt (from a master doctor).

I'm not talkin' cradle-robbing.

There seems to be an approximately fifteen year window here.

But given the emails I've been getting this weekend, I'm finding out that some guys like the idea of dating an older woman. Or at least they see the woman, not solely the age.

I'd already learned that (and very nice it was, thank you). This was just corroborative


Do they tend to think that all of our experience has made us better in bed? I haven't heard a hint of that in the men who contacted me this weekend.

But if I had to guess, some of these gentleman feel that one of the most seductive organs a woman can bring into a relationship is her mind.

Curiosity? Check. Mental agility? Yes. A bit of a wild child streak? Got it.

And I have to admit that having my mind taken as seriously, more seriously than my chronological age feels really good.

Because let's face it. After the age of roughly 35, men or women who want to date younger are going to have to sacrifice something.

It could be maturity. Or physical attractiveness (although that can be in the eye of the beholder). Or intelligence.

I'm just blown away that a guy finds my curious mind as desirable as my body. Or let me phrase it another way: that he finds my empathy and wide-ranging, all things considered intellect an advantage. That's a new one.

Empathy, which comes from experience, usually is paired with intelligence. In fact, it's pretty hard to have true empathy without some understanding of the larger human condition. That comes with age – and it comes with emotional maturity.

As we approach and pass the milestones of middle-age, some of us seem to want to jump into a box, and pull the edges around our heads -- becoming more and more of who we were.

We recapitulate. Or perhaps we capitulate. It feels safer.

Not me.

I'm attracted to men and women (as friends) who want to push the boundaries -- for us, there is no box (at least right now --- of course, we most of us end up in one).

I won’t stop trying to look and act the best that I can be. I like to look as good as I can without going all crazy with needles and stuff.

I'm a constant learner. And I try to keep a mind open to new ideas and experiences.

I suspect that means a lot to an adventurous man.

Some of them find that exciting.

"I think you are AMAZING" wrote a fan today.

I'm not all that.

But I am intrigued by the idea of exploring the many facets of a relationship.

Perhaps the men who contacted me over the past few weeks believe, with me, that a dangerous mind shouldn't go to waste.

I don't intend to let it.

vendredi, novembre 18, 2011

A free woman in Paris

This morning I heard from a journalist friend who lives across the Atlantic ocean. He's really a smart guy.

But he's not just intelligent as in thoughtful and well-versed in a lot of fascinating topics.

A while back my friend married a Frenchwoman he met while serving in a foreign news bureau. Now he and she live in Paris with their family.

I have a cousin who used to live in Paris. And I still imagine it (having not seen it for decades) as one of the most romantic cities in the world.

A city in which one can tumble out of bed (of course, one does not sleep alone in Paris) and walk down the street to sit as a sidewalk cafe for breakfast at noon.

A city in which one can walk for miles along the Seine and catch glimpses of the Paris of 400 years ago.

A city in which a debate about poetry can be taken as seriously, if not more so, than one about politics.

One in which people care about style, but aren't obvious about it.

I want to be in Paris. I can't get there right now.

Yet the city of La Belle Epoque, of croissants and Proust and stolen kisses waits on the horizon, tantalizing and gorgeous.

I trust that Paris will be there when I can.

Wanna come?

jeudi, novembre 17, 2011

Polyamory: a (serious) reconsideration

I'm aware of the religious, ethical and practical arguments against polyamory.

I got it.

So if you are going to be shocked by what I am about to say, I advise you simply not to read this post.

Of course, that pretty much guarantees that you WILL read it.

A few years ago, a friend told me about polyamory, those who have multiple relationships or many loves.

Actually, it could just be one other love, or one other lover.

Polys are clear that it's very different from swinging, where men and women engage in sex without emotional attachment.

Jealousy is the obvious problem with that choice. I'm not sure how they manage it.

There are so many obvious reasons why this is an unsuitable lifestyle for me -- the problem is that they are mostly in my head.

My heart says something else. I'm not entirely sure what it's telling me, and I'm trying to sort it out.

There are so many things, in the romance arena, that I'm trying to sort out.

And there are so many things I know.

I'm tired, and I'm losing patience.

Patience with guys my age or older who need to date younger women to validate their masculinity.

Patience with guys who haven't dealt with their issues and riff on the same theme with a few variations.

Patience with men who won't 'fess up to having baggage.

Also, as much as I respect them, engineers and I don't share much of a common tongue.

I thought that I had endless stores of empathy - but it may be a good thing that I have a limit.

I hope this is, metaphorically speaking, a fertile period.

I know that something in me is changing.

Perhaps it's time to take some risks.

I don't know if they look like polyamory. Given my cautious personality and beliefs, I tend to doubt it.

I don't know whose face he wears....and if I did know, I wouldn't say right now.

But there's a lot about which I'm not as sure as I once was.

And guess what? That can be fun.

I'm not going to turn into a spinster....a confirmed bachelor, and likely to remain so (pace Henry Higgins).

There ARE mouths to be kissed after mouths to be fed (forgive me, Stephen Sondheim).

And I'm goin' looking for him.

Let's see if I'm girl enough for one guy. I think I have potential.

mercredi, novembre 16, 2011

PDA among "friends": How much do you expose?

There are all kinds of reasons I've been thinking about this question recently.

And again, some of them will remain nameless.

But I am being reinforced in my prejudice that what you say, or don't say online, says something about who you are. I find this fascinating -- and a bit dispiriting.

For sure, there have been times when I've made an ass of myself.

A lot of my friends online choose to say nothing. They prefer, apparently, to conduct most of their lives offline.

Some of my other friends have alternative personas. That's really intriguing.

I sometimes wonder what the heck they think when I post a blog update, or some rant from one of the media outlets that gives me the privilege of ranting (and even getting paid for it!).

And then there are folks who sometimes let it all hang out sometimes. I don't know too many of them.

And I may not even know them well.

But I do wonder: what were they thinking when they posted a status update or wrote on a blog?

Did they realize that what they wrote might say more about them then perhaps they would want others to know?

Or do they take the risk, and jump, with forethought and bravery?

Do they gamble that readers and "friends" will be kind?

Because I take on a public persona now and then, I have gotten all kinds of comments. I am well aware of the risks of exposing myself.

But I also know it's what people aren't saying to you that may matter more.

And I wonder what I have opened to public view without even knowing it.

In the meantime, I'm in the hunt for dignity. While it seems like an old-fashioned virtue, it might be one we should bring back.

I'll let you know if I find it -- offline. Because if it's found online, the person behind it ain't saying anything.

lundi, novembre 14, 2011

If I was with you

If I was with you...

I'd race up the hill, throw myself on the ground, and roll with abandon to the bottom, grass in my hair, the cool day staining my cheeks red.

Smiling crookedly up at you, I'd pull you down beside me, both of us laughing and amazed that such childlike play came naturally.

If I was with you, I'd let you pay me the most brazen compliments, half-skeptical and half-charmed, both of us knowing that it was a delightful game.

We both know how to play at serious.

If we were together, I'd kiss you with a passion that would burn all of my years of self-denial and care and prudence to smoldering ash.

If we were in the same place, be it mountaintop trail with the fragrant pines overhead, or running along the sea, where the sand hills rise and fall in the late fall breeze, I'd slam the door on tomorrow.

We both know that tomorrow arrives whether we want it to or not.

If we were to meet in that place where dreams and hopes collide, I would open myself to you and the moment, listening to the part of my spirit that has been so frequently subdued and ignored.

I would be the woman you see in me.

You would be freed from the invisible burdens you carry.

But it is only sometimes that I allow myself to dream -- and wonder how to channel that passion in the here and now, the flame that burns so far away, the dream that lies out of reach of my open hands.

To push the door ajar, even for those moments, is an act of determination I have not allowed myself until now...the luxury of imagination that defies rational thought -- and soars and cavorts and rises, illumined for a moment, against a night sky.