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.