Category Archives: relationships

No Mountains

I find that people can be offensively curious, and we live in society that has become unapologetic about asking the tough questions that would have once been saved for quiet contemplation outside of one’s presence.  “Why are you single?” is one of my favorites, and over the years I’ve crafted a whole bunch of responses I’d like to give to that particularly obtuse question.  “Because I hog all the covers.”  “Because I killed my last husband and everyone I’ve dated since that time has found that to be pretty intimidating.” “Because I have huge, malodorous lesions all over my private parts and no one can seem to get past it.”  The responses I concoct in my head get more and more crass as the years pass by.  I keep them to myself.

My second most favorite obtuse question, which is actually in the same family as the first obtuse question is, “Why did you get divorced?”  Which is really just a slightly more polite way of asking, “What did you do to screw everything up in your marriage?”  Or at least that’s what I hear.  And to that, I do have an answer that doesn’t involve any snark or defensive deflection.  Of course, it’s taken me the better part of 11 years to perfect my snark-free answer, but that is beside the point.

When asked this question (which I must add, you might be surprised as to how often it is asked) I say that I married a man who was a lovely man but who was also a people pleaser. And day after day, year after year, he made a habit of letting people (namely, me) make all his decisions for him. So much so, that we would go to a restaurant for dinner and when asked by the waitress what kind of dressing he wanted on his salad, he would reply to her, “I don’t know.  You decide.” I mean really!  Who does that?  There are many things in life I don’t care about or even have the required knowledge to have formulated an opinion.  But salad dressing?  Please.  We all have a favorite salad dressing.

So anyway, as the story goes, this very lovely man spent 13 years letting others (namely, me and the occasional waitress) make decisions on his behalf and stuffing his opinions (if he had any) deep inside.  And conflict?  Forget about it.  If there was conflict or even the foreshadowing of conflict, he did what any good, stoic man of Scandanavian descent would do:  He swept it under the rug.  And after 13 years of sweeping his garbage under the rug, lo and behold he came home one day and there was a ginormous, insurmountable, irritating-as-all-get-out mountain under the rug. Right there in the living room.

And that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Yes, as I say, after thirteen years of seemingly not caring about much of anything, he suddenly cared a whole lot. Because he had had enough of others (namely, me) bulldozing him and making his decisions for him and he couldn’t take it for another second.  Once he achieved this realization, it didn’t take long for things to unravel.  Not only did they unravel,  they unraveled in such an unpleasant way.  As  I have looked back and have tried to take the lesson from it all, I know this for sure:  That mountain is a dangerous thing.

It’s a dangerous thing, but it’s an easy thing to contribute to.  As you start a new relationship – when everything is bright and shiny and you are determined to put forth your best self – it can be hard to assert yourself.  But to deny your voice, in the beginning, the middle or the end really, is a dangerous thing.  Because to deny your voice is to contribute to the mountain.   I can’t tell anyone else what to do, but I for one have made a commitment in all of my relationships – especially those that matter the most – that there simply won’t be any mountains. I’ve been there, and in spite of what people might say, the view just isn’t that great.

No Apology Necessary

My friend had meticulously planned a party and it seemed she had attended to every possible detail.  Banners were hung, thematic cocktails were lovingly prepared, a loop revealing fun facts about the day’s event was playing over and over on TVs in several rooms.  Even the hand soap in her bathroom had been ordered online weeks prior to accommodate the theme for the gathering.  She loves hosting, and it showed.

In the kitchen, I helped her with some last minute details as the first guests were arriving.  (I was uncomfortably among the first to arrive and the last to leave – hardly a trademark I strive for, but one I embraced that day.)  I went to grab something from the fridge, and the magnetic dry erase board affixed to the front of it caught my eye.  The board was a list of items entitled “Family Meeting” and it went something like this:  1)  Healthy beverage choices; 2) Wiping; 3) Fun summer activities.

Not being able to resist, I made an inquiry about the second item on the list, and wondered aloud if this item pertained to Dad or one of the children.  We laughed as we noted the irony that this was in fact “number two” on the list.  My friend explained that her youngest child had taken a stance that wiping was optional, and said stance was “just gross.”  I told her that I loved, loved, loved that she kept the list front and center on the fridge for her meticulously planned party. She said she thought about taking it down, but then thought, “Why bother?  It is what it is.”

As I reflected on this later, I thought how much I admire this about my friend. She’s right!  Maybe we don’t all have problems with wiping (God help us if we do), but we all have something.  In fact, I would argue that we all have a whole lot of somethings.  Why we do bother trying to hide any part of ourselves from the people around us, especially those who care? My friend may not even know it, but her decision to be herself, unapologetically – to not only accept “what is” but to hang it out there for the whole world to see – is the perfect depiction of freedom.  It’s a freedom I think might look good on all of us.  Let’s try, shall we?

Wheat vs. Chaff

I once invited the owner of a company that provides interpreting services to our monthly all staff meeting.  She had come to describe the services her agency could offer and to give us pointers – etiquette tips, if you will – on the use of language interpreters.  One of her suggestions was to avoid the use of idiomatic language.  Knowing there must be some people in the room who were unfamiliar with the concept of an idiom, I asked her to supply an example.  She said, and I quote, “Oh wow, you are really putting me on the spot.  I am totally drawing a blank.” As I pointed out that her answer to me in fact contained not one but two idioms, we all laughed.  I still giggle when I think of it, because she was so sincere in that moment.  It was spontaneous and wrought with the kind of human foible that can only come from a moment of pressure.

Our language and our lives are filled with idioms – those expressions that we use that have figurative meanings that differ from the literal meanings.  I once worked with a guy who I swore only spoke in idioms.  He could chain two, three, four of them together in a sentence and at the end of it we’d have no idea what he was talking about.  “Let’s circle the wagons, put on our thinking caps and see who is doing the lion’s share of the work.”  Huh?  It was funny, too, because the more intense the situation, the worse it got.  I once quipped that his idiomatic language was a lot like herpes – it seemed to really flare up during periods of incredible stress.

So this past week was one where one of my favorite idioms kept coming to the forefront of my consciousness.  The idiom?  “Separating the wheat from the chaff.”  Stemming from a bible verse, the figurative notion behind this idiom is to separate what is valuable from what is worthless.  And there is nothing in life – nothing, I tell you – that can hasten this process like a good old fashioned crisis.

It has happened to me a few times now, and has happened once again.  It has occurred consistently, without hesitation, every single time I’ve gone through a difficult time.  It’s almost as if there is a new clarity, a magnifying glass of sorts, that appears out of nowhere.  You are on my side, you are not.  You care so deeply you will sacrifice as much as is needed, you only care when caring suits you.  You have my back, you’d rather stab it.  One by one, the people in closest proximity sort to one side or the other in record speed.

At the end of the exercise, I’m left with what I know for sure.  It’s a tragic, heart-breaking, lovely and confidence-securing thing.  But – and I say this from the depth of my heart – no matter what the cost, it is always better to know.  And what I can say I know, this time around and every time previous to it, the inventory of the wheat in my life is a robust and beautiful thing.

Quote

I Would Buy Me a Coke

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Have Confidence in Me.”

I’ve been told that I have presence, a way of carrying myself, that exudes confidence.  I remember someone once commenting to me, “I wish I had just the amount of confidence you must have in your little pinky toe.” It’s funny to me, because I’m not sure where it came from.  I hear that, and I cringe, because the last thing I want to be is pompous or cocky, and I know it’s a fine line.  On the inside, I still feel like the seven year-old girl clinging to the back of my mom’s pant legs, frightened of my own shadow and afraid to try anything new. But  forty-some years later, I’m not that scared little girl, and it seems I’m someone very different. It’s hard to even begin to connect the dots of how I got here from there.

What I do know is that I didn’t get there on my own. If I look back across the years, I see people – the people who in time became my people.  One by one, they stepped forward and decided they were going to believe in me.  My first grade teacher who, upon hearing I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, told me she thought I would make a wonderful teacher. The neighbor who took me under her wing, and let me hang around and admire her for reasons I don’t even know.  The uncle who decided to treat me like an adult and tell me the truth, when no one else would. The college residence life staff who thought I had what it took to lead and then showed me how.  The professional mentors – many of them – who gave me chances I hadn’t even earned, and then supported me in all kinds of ways that helped me succeed.

And so, what I know is this:  I am me – “more confidence than some people have in their pinky toe” me – because of them.  Because the difference between one who flounders and one who succeeds is a very simple difference:  the one who succeeds has someone – anyone – and maybe just one, who fiercely believes in them.

I got home a week ago after doing my very first consulting gig in Guelph, Ontario of all places.  I planned but didn’t over-plan, I took my bag of tricks, and I went in and I did my thing.  After months of questioning myself, wondering if I still had it, I got a gentle but exhilarating reminder:  As a matter of fact, I do still have it.  I’m even willing to bet that I had it all along.  I just forgot.

So there I was at 1:25 a.m., grime from the flights tarnishing my clothes, my hair, and my soul.  I felt two opposing emotions at the same time; strikingly content and still a little shaken from the adrenaline rush of the week that had just passed.  And I sat on my bed in this compromised but perfectly blissful state, eating a chicken shish kabob sandwich from the gas station/Greek diner drive through, and I thought this, for the first time in a long time:  “I like me.  I would buy me a Coke.”

And while I like myself enough to buy me  a Coke, I know who gave me the change to do it.  It was my people.

Candy Hearts

candy heartsI love those little candy hearts that come out around Valentine’s Day.  Or, Valentimes, as we like to mockingly call it among my friends and family.  The hearts, though, they are hard enough to crack a tooth, chalky, almost flavorless. There is very little that is redeeming about them.  But they are nostalgia, they are tradition, they are love.

The candy hearts have changed over the years.  I’ve admired the candy-maker’s tenacity to stay contemporary.  The taste (or lack thereof) has stayed the same, but the messages have not.  Back in my day of exchanging classroom valentines, no one would have known what “Text Me” or “LOL” even meant.  I haven’t seen this year’s candy hearts, but I would not be surprised if there are some that  make reference to SnapChat or Amazon Prime.

So another year passes and I’ve yet to find the everlasting love that I think I want, that I know I deserve.  I’m getting closer, though, I can feel it in the depths of my soul.  I’m getting closer, because I’ve made commitments to myself and I have done some hard work and I have steered the arc of my life to bend toward self-actualization, even though I’m quite sure it will never fully get there.  I’ve cleaned out the cobwebs and tidied up the debris and made room for what is yet to come.  I feel good, and I feel sure.  I like who I am and what I have to offer.  I am ready.

So my custom-made box of candy hearts would reflect exactly what I want.  I imagine the hearts would say things like this:  I’m Finally Ready. You’re Amazing. So Am I. Better Together. Order Takeout. Cuddlebug. Stay Up Late. Sleep In. Awaken My Soul. Let’s See The World. I’ll Lift You Up. Laugh Every Day. Make Me Think.  Grow Together.  And last, but not least:  Let’s Do This.

National Unfriend Day

It’s funny, a few years ago there was no such term as “unfriend.”  There was “parting of ways” or “severing ties” or even “breaking up.” Unfriending, though?  It was unheard of.  Fast forward a few years, and unfriending has become the ultimate insult.  For most of us, it takes a lot to call it quits with someone on Facebook. It is the last dangling thread of even the most troubled friendships.

I recently learned, quite accidentally, that someone had unfriended me on Facebook.  The accidental discovery occurred when she sent me a friend request, then quickly retracted it, and so after a couple minutes of confusion I figured out she had given me the boot.  The funny thing is, I probably would have never noticed on my own accord because this person’s provocative political ways had become annoying to me and I had hidden her a long time ago.  I’ve hidden a lot of people, and honestly it doesn’t take much for me to do so.  Too much whining or selling stuff or begging for other stuff or vaguebooking or hokey memes or whatever, really.  If I don’t feel you are adding to my happiness, I will hide you.  Unfriending is a very different threshold, however. Unfriending is saved only for the worst of the worst.  Honestly, the handful people I’ve actually unfriended have been seriously intolerable to me – racist, classist or straight up scary. Everybody else can stay so long as I can keep them hidden and check in only when I feel like it.

So what did I do to deserve this recent random unfriending?  I have a guess or two.  It wasn’t anything heinous – at least in my humble opinion. But it did involve me sharing an opinion with a common friend that probably didn’t sit well with my fellow unfriender.  So rather than asking to address it up front, she decided she’d show me.  That’s how the world works these days.  We have a ready option to communicate what we are really thinking without saying anything at all.

To which I say lovingly, respectfully:  goodbye, my (former?) friend.  Au revoir. Adios. And best of luck to you. The irony is that I was already busy not missing you long before you made your bold, forever move.

Happy National Unfriend Day, y’all.

A Single Girl’s Guide to Not Finding Love

I want love.

There, I said it.  I am putting it out in the universe and broadcasting it on the world wide web.  I want can’t live without you, cuckoo for cocoa puffs, lost my fool head love.  I want, as my favorite author Cheryl Strayed has called it, “hot monkey love.”  I am very clear on what I want and what I deserve, and I’ll settle for nothing less.  I’ll be honest, though, I am not as clear on how to get it.

But I am getting clearer on how not to get it, and that, my friends, is online dating.  Not for the faint of heart, online dating is a beast all its own.  I know, I know.  Thousands of couples have met online and they are so very happy with their fairytale ending.  So I am not entirely excluding it, but I must tell you with all sincerity, it is kind of ridiculous. Let me tell you why.

Online dating attracts an unusually large number of socially inept people (author of this essay excluded).  The normal social expectations do not apply, because there is a layer of protection (a computer screen and accompanying virtual anonymity) between the two interested parties. Therefore, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to declare your every thought without reservation.  While this sounds freeing, it can actually be quite appalling.  It’s like everyone online has a frontal lobe injury.

The other noteworthy phenomenon of online dating is that it is almost entirely visual.  It’s like paging through the Sears catalog of desperate human beings, and even the most intellectually sophisticated browser (author of this essay, for example) succumbs to the two-second assessment of someone’s relationship worthiness. For someone like myself – attractive enough in my own right, but so much more appealing in person when I can add charm, wit and intellect to my physical self – it all falls short.  I’m so much better in person.  I haven’t figured out how to bring my sassy, most beautiful self to life online.

Outside of all of this, the final truth remains:  There are a bunch of sad, lonely weirdos out there and the pickins seem slim.  Don’t believe me? Here are a few of my favorite online dating stories.  I swear to you with every fiber of my being, they are all true.

Exhibit A:  “I have one children.”  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, someone actually declared this on their online profile.  Let’s say it again, just to let it all sink in:  “I have one children.”  Now, I know I am a grammar, punctuation and spelling snob.  I’m an aspiring writer, what do you expect?  But come on.   I cannot, for the life of me, fathom how this sentence came to be.  My best guess is that this person originally wrote something along the lines of “I have ten children,” decided ten children would scare away any quality woman, changed “ten” to “one” and forgot about the rest of the sentence.  There is no other plausible explanation.

Exhibit B:  “The Pussinator.”  The Pussinator has almost become folklore among my group of friends. When setting up an online profile, everyone picks a screen name.  Most people pick something silly or benign or uninspired.  But this man – a man who is apparently not afraid to boast of his superhero bedroom talents – decided his screen name would be The Pussinator. Needless to say, I did not “like” his profile.  I read it, though, because I wanted to know who on earth would give himself this name.  I tried to imagine introducing The Pussinator to my family.  I tried to imagine writing out a heartfelt Valentine’s Day card to The Pussinator.  I tried to imagine waking up next to The Pussinator on a lazy Sunday morning and getting up to make him eggs.  While I ultimately concluded The Pussinator and I weren’t right for each other, I will say this: We never even met, but he gave me a great story. No, dear Pussinator…it was never meant to be. Your crass ways forced me to move on to Raininmymouth and Lovetofuck69.

Exhibit C:  “D*** Pic Guy.”  D*** Pic Guy has one glaring problem, and it’s not what you think.  D*** Pic Guy is lacking in patience.  He doesn’t know how to play the game, or if he does, he doesn’t care to.  It is noteworthy that D*** Pic Guy isn’t just one guy – he’s everywhere.  A precursory clue you might have encountered D*** Pic Guy is by the “abdomen-only” or “dude in a hot tub” or “naked save for a towel selfie in the bathroom mirror” photos.  A second clue D*** Pic Guy is lurking around is his instantaneous suggestion to move the conversation off of the online dating profile to an Instant Message chat forum like Yahoo. The final, most telling clue you are chatting with D*** Pic Guy is when – you guessed it – he sends you a photo of his junk.  I don’t mean the junk in his garage or the junk in his basement.  I mean his junk.  The first (and proudly, only) time this happened to me, I believe my response was something like this:  “Gah! What the???!!!”  And with that, I promptly slammed shut my laptop screen.  But then I opened it and looked again, because I’m human.  But here’s the thing, D*** Pic Guy:  I don’t want to see that until we’ve at least shared some lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s. Please make a note of it.

Sigh.

It’s not so easy out there for a single girl like me.  There is much to overcome.  So until I find what I am looking for  – a steaming hot, hilarious, unpretentious but possibly independently wealthy Mensa member (who furthermore understands when it is necessary to use the Oxford comma), I will be patiently waiting. And looking online for more material.