jeudi, juillet 21, 2011

All I ask of you

I want to be flattered.

If I needed affirmation for my broken heart, this must be it -- isn't it?

It seems as though I'm talking to a new man every other day -- like a shortstop, I am getting good at fielding the bases one must run in between on the way to a meeting. Emails, phone calls, appointments for coffee.

Though most haven't sat across from me at a Barnes & Noble (yet), they seem to like to talk to me. I am polite. I am friendly. I ask questions. I don't talk much about myself.

I canceled a coffee meet n' greet this past week. Given four hours in which to work, sandwiched in-between driving kids to Newtown Square and Malvern, I decided I needed the time to work on a story.

Which was a wise choice. But it was also a fearful choice.

I haven't called to reschedule. He's a really nice person. We've had a few good chats. Yet I find myself feeling both emotionally spent by the strains of this summer, and afraid.

Is it worth investing the time it takes to know someone? Will the differences outweigh the surface things we have in common? Franchment, will a guy who seems normal turn out to be politically, socially or sexually crazed as a coot?

And beneath all of that, perhaps the most challenging question -- can I allow myself to trust someone?

And yet they continue to show up on the screen of this middle-aged mom. And I continue to act as though I'm thrilled to "meet" them -- even in a time when other pressures often seem to push me to the breaking point.

Under all of my skittishness and my dismissive posture, I must WANT to be involved with someone -- someone who will listen to me, know what he wants , have my back, see beauty in me.

Doesn't everyone -- want something that's real?

Most of us want someone who will be in there for the long haul, who will hold up a mirror to us, who will forgive us, even when he or she doesn't like what they see.

So I push on.

Tonight I got out to my house and mowed the lawn. It was already darkening as I walked on the trail around the elementary school. No one else was out to see the bunnies and watch dusk settle on the swamp. I forced myself to move a little faster -- off the deserted path, up on to the driveway, and towards my house.

As I walked towards the road, the song from "Phantom" came on my Pandora channel. Now, I'm not a huge Andrew Lloyd Webber fan -- but I do like this melody.

And as I went forward in the warm night, the wind ruffled my hair, and I noticed that, for the first time in a long time, I was smiling. And even (can you imagine?) though I really believed in love.

Love me, that's all I ask of you.

I might. I could, perhaps. I just don't know him yet.

And I won't, unless I allow myself to meet him.

Love me, stranger -- that's all I ask of you.

mercredi, juillet 20, 2011

A Mother's Darkest Fears

I think I'm living them, in this hotel on the edge between marginal and frightening, whenever my daughter is staying here.

For a few months, we are living in a one-room studio, while our house is rent beam from beam, and rebuilt, with a new second story and reworked first floor.

I dream of granite tiles and a circular bathtub surrounded by stones, a rain chime that rings in the night, friends gathered round the ancestral family table (right now sitting in my friend Randy's workshop).

But the present reality is sitting near the window of our second-story hotel, peering anxiously outside, trying to see my daughter in the dusk -- my daughter and her new friends, whose ages range between 28 and 19.

Male friends. Friends for whom she adorns herself with eye makeup, and a t-shirt with the shoulders cut off.

One would almost think that she had an absent father -- but she has an active, engaged one.

I worry about her ceaselessly. But mostly when she is here, and out of my sight.

She has a combination of traits that might put her at risk -- a fairly sheltered upbringing, a tendency to trust relative strangers, and a natural beauty that makes her a magnet for young men.

In addition, she is awkward with her peers. Her friends are not the popular girls, the intellectuals, or the athletes. For reasons that are still mysterious to me, she finds herself most at home among the outcasts.

In an endless balancing act, I play out potential peril. Is it o.k. to let her spend time with her new friends, one of whom fought Somali pirates, another who fought in Afghanistan? I've met both of them...they came upstairs to introduce themselves to me.

They seem like very nice young men -- but she can't be in their room without my son, and then, only for a limited period of time.

It's kind of crazy, though to ask an almost 14-year-old to protect the virtue of a 16-year-old.

And as for the two 19-year-olds? Only when they are outside, and I can see them from the window.

Why could she not find a teenage girl her own age to befriend? I dream of girls who would visit the house, giggle in her room, watch "Twilight" and romcoms over and over, raid the refrigerator.

I dream of another, lost world.

Tonight she took a walk around the back side of the hotel, which sits next to another "inn" for long-term stays. Should I allow her to do something the puts her out of view?

Probably not -- but tonight, I allow it. I desperately need to get to the gym, and a telephone call to urge her to return to the hotel suffices.

But it doesn't salve my conscience. I imagine her terrified, in room with a toothless, sociopathic stranger -- and worse. I think of what life would be like without her.

Hopping off the treadmill, I call to make sure she is safe. "You are too trusting" I say. Not everybody she meets is going to be good to her, I warn her.

She's on her way back to the room -- for the moment, I can relax my guard. Tomorrow, she goes back to her dad's house for a few days. Where she will be much safer.

Two months. Months of purgatory, of fear, of anxiety dripping like acid through my thoughts - until we can return home.

When we get there, Lord willing, I will rejoice, knowing that the challenges that seemed to loom so large there might not have been so great as I make them.

After all, she's only climbed out the window at our Glenmoore house to meet up with a guy once -- and then deer on the lawn scared her from doing it again.

I'm so glad I've got a few bucks.

mardi, juillet 19, 2011

Dating the never-married "him" (or "her")

I'm exhausted.

I've canceled a coffee meet-up for tomorrow, because I have a story to write. He does seem like a genuinely nice person, so we'll probably meet up. I spoke to a fellow this evening, and he'd like to meet sometime to talk further. There's the Englishman (well, technically, two guys who come from England). And a few others.

All are younger -- but not significantly (within seven years).

But a few of these men have been married before. I find that situation a little odd.

It wasn't until recently that I stopped and reconsidered my knee-jerk response to dating a man who had never been married.

Up front, this meditation doesn't apply to younger folks -- it's for us middle-aged people, who have been around a while, and had some shots at crafting a life with somebody else.

My previous line of thought went something like this...the never-married folks haven't had a lot of experience dealing with the difficult parts of relationships. Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Hanging in.

Mostly, I wondered if the never-married got in "so deep" - and then decided to jump ship. If they had gotten to "my age" and decided not to tie the knot (or run away, screaming), they might have intimacy issues -- as in a failure to want to commit.

If they didn't have children, I feared that they might not be empathetic to the demands of my lifestyle.

And then I saw a few interesting, complex guys putting themselves out there in online profiles -- and I started to wonder...why not?

I began to rethink a few things.

First of all, our society seems to be becoming incredibly diverse, relationally-speaking. Maybe some of these fellows, even though they are close to my age, chose not to get married.

It's also possible that they developed relationships, outside of marriage, in which they worked with others, reached out to the weak and those in need, and protected those who were vulnerable. Or grew emotionally smart in ways that, someday, they will share with me.

And, of course, although there is much discussion about making getting into a marriage more tough, getting out of a marriage can be pretty simple nowadays.

In a nation in which so many are serial monogamists, it can be argued that marriage has lost some of its gloss.

Could it be that some who don't get married take the institution more seriously than some who do?

I don't know. And then there is the trillion dollar question -- what makes a relationship intimate.

Although I ponder it muchly, I have no good way of analyzing intimacy -- and of figuring out what makes a successful intimate relationship.

In the past, I've thought that I've had some idea of what went into making a relationship hum -- and of seeking out the men who had potential.

I've talked to a lot of men, sometimes as a counselor, sometimes as a potential date.

I've seen guys who ran from emotional closeness. I've spoken to fellows who practiced so much enmeshment with their "loved one" that it resembled a bad sci-fi novel.

And I've run into men who sometimes seemed capable of sustaining an honest, direct and compassionate relationship, and then returned back to the surface, like a diver with a bad case of the bends.

But I haven't met the guy with whom I felt safe risking getting emotionally naked -- I'm more likely to be the one asking questions than answering them.

By the way, I'm sure that there are women who fit these categories, too. But are they more likely to have never been married? I dunno.

I also don't know how much one learns from experiences. I don't even know how capable I am of keeping the pot boiling when the emotional heat gets turned up high.

So...these not-married men? I'm going to give them a shot. I think they deserve it, don't you? No one should be the victim of prejudice, solely on the basis of whether they have an indentation on that ring finger, or not.

I just wish they wouldn't all want to chat on the same day.