I’ve made a conscious decision not to attempt online dating right now, or any kind of dating. It’s not that I’m afraid of getting hurt or afraid of the crazies. It’s just that, well, I hate all the boxes I have to check that define me. It becomes an exercise in self-examination (humiliation) that is just no fun. As in “How did this happen to me!!!!!”
I’m not so good on paper online. I have been married before; it ended in divorce. Of course, that’s not uncommon, but I have a whole bunch of children (five, yes, five children) from that marriage, who live with me. My career and net worth are, at least at present, not what they had the potential to be, for many reasons, some of which are related to the fact that I was married, had a lot of children in a very short period of time, got dumped and flipped out.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be so good in person, either. I’ve got nothing to talk about. The course of my life and accomplishments have in no small part been influenced by my prior relationship, which, I know, is not appropriate casual dating conversation. For the last few years I have been dealing with the end of that relationship, recovery from that relationship, and depression. Again, not topics of casual coffee talk with a stranger. And talking about kids is also a dating no-no. Plus, I don’t have a list of exciting hobbies and activities I’d like to discuss and share with a potential mate, except for the music stuff which I don’t feel the need to bring a man into. And no, I don’t go to the gym, unless, of course, you count the physical therapy I’m still attending to recover from the injuries I received from the dangerous and stupid combination of starting an exercise regimen and fighting with my daughter (she won, by the way). My Aching Back. So I’m not a lot of fun in person, I fear. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot to offer, but I don’t have the energy or inclination or time to peddle my potential to a stranger.
I realize how negative I sound. I’m depressed. I should be dating Eeyore. Now Eeyore and I, yeah, we could hang out . . . but I digress.
Regardless of all the reasons not to do it, I could put myself out there anyway and pretend to be a good date. But here’s part two of the problem. What (oh I’m sorry) Who would I get in response to my online profiles? I’d get guys who are attracted to what I appear to be on paper online. Well, that’s just scary. I’m a little scary. I know that. Damn, I wouldn’t even respond to my own profile. Still, when I create these profiles (and never pay), I do get poked or pinged or prodded or winked at or whatever from men –men who apparently can tolerate the boxes that I’ve checked (oh the boxes, I check too many and too few). When I see these connections, I just want to scratch my head and say, “Dude, really, you’re into this?” I mean, I can barely tolerate the boxes I check. And if he checks the same boxes? Oh what a motley crew we would make.
My checked boxes may accurately describe my situation, but they don’t define me. Really, they don’t.
Wait, do they?
Do they? !!!!! (Singing: “Excuse me, while I start to cry . . . ” Playing air guitar.)
Perhaps it comes down to the fact that I don’t want someone to share this current on paper online profile life with, I’d like some company in a very different life that I have yet to create, or failed to create in the past (Shut up, Eeyore). So, no, I’m not ready online or otherwise to force a dating life. I need to take care of me, manage or overcome this depression, work to get out of this financial hole my divorce left me in. Yada yada yada . . .
That is the reasoned, socially correct conclusion.
That’s not me, either.
To be continued . . .
Just Me With . . . a decision not to force a dating situation.
See, Undateable, Part II.
I’ll call her Erin. She was senior to me in the fancy law firm we worked in — seems like a lifetime ago. She was attractive, a model of good taste, not particularly well liked and frankly a little scary. Harsh, is what people said about her. She was playing with the big boys, and had watched the big boys make partner while they passed her over, year after year, despite her superior qualifications and track record. Picture a younger Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada, but a Miranda who has to work under all of the Mad Men.
On the personal side, Erin is single, never married. This made her an expert on dating. Over the years she had a long, too long relationship with an older man who would not commit. She spent the bulk of her last good child bearing years with this man, kind of like Mr. Big from Sex and The City, but not as cute. Following her ultimatum, he finally told her he would never marry. They continued to date and travel together but with no expectations for more. They kept separate apartments in the city.
When I was a junior attorney Erin scared the crap out of me. My work best friend and I vowed never to have a meal with her. But once I matured professionally (and personally) I found myself getting closer to her and we became friends.
By the time my marriage ended neither of us worked at that firm anymore. They never made her partner so she found another firm that did. She had ended her relationship with “Mr. Big Can’t Commit Guy” for good but had no serious relationships since.
I was struggling, this was during some pretty dark times, but I didn’t want her to know how hard things were for me — maybe she did still scare me a bit. Regardless, her intuitiveness and observation skills uncovered my pain. Still deeply wounded by my then soon-to-be-ex’s ability to so easily discard and replace me, I admitted that it had deeply injured my ego and confidence.
Erin had never been impressed with my Ex and she didn’t mince words. Ever.
Erin instructed me:
She further explained that I needed to be around men who will appreciate my good qualities, men who will appreciate my choosing to spend time with them. She elaborated that these dates should not end in sex, and that I should not be looking for a boyfriend or someone to love. These dates should simply be a means to an end, a way to break away from being the wife — the jilted and rejected wife. I needed, she said, to see myself the way others see me– not how my Ex treated me.
I wasn’t really convinced that I could or should take her advice, because I really did not want a man and was still too depressed and wounded (and physically ill) to seriously consider it. She sensed that, and added, in her usual strong, pointed manner,
“Roxanne, he has changed the playing field. You have a right to play on that field.”
I wasn’t ready to take her advice then and I didn’t. But looking back on it now, I see that she is a smart woman, a really scary, brilliant woman.
Just Me With . . . the good advice, that I just didn’t take.
Dating, well non-dating posts:
I know, it sounds juicy or scandalous. I assure you, it’s neither.
I spend time with married men from time to time.
These men are happily married. And it is not one of those situations when the men are unavailable for or forsake their wives and family to hang out with me. No, these guys are good to their families, first. And these are not “emotional affairs” either. Nobody’s saying, “Oh, if I wasn’t married . . . (wink wink)” or “My wife doesn’t understand me.” No, nothing like that. These are men I’ve met professionally or from my old neighborhood. It’s lunch, every once in a while during the work day, it’s dropping by to say “Hi,” while out on a run. It’s helping with a household project, or moving or carrying something which requires man strength and then staying for a cold drink. It’s random phone calls to chat. Although my girlfriends and I check in from time to time, I would say my face and phone time has been with married men more frequently than girlfriends or family recently.
I confess also that there are benefits, plenty of them — just nothing sexual. In addition to having someone to move the refrigerator — which, I’m convinced is a man’s true purpose on this earth — but I digress . . . The emotional benefits are that they make me feel like more than — a mother. One even asks if I’m seeing anybody and thinks that I should. I rarely get that question from family or girlfriends, a fact that may be the topic of another post . . . but I digress again. When my married male friends tell me I look nice or that it was good to see me, etc. . . . it makes me feel good. Occasionally, I can even go a semi-professional event with one of these married guys, to avoid the dreaded and frequent “The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone.” So, it’s nice. These married guys genuinely like me as a friend, still acknowledge that I’m a woman, and offer statements of admiration for me and what I’ve accomplished in a difficult situation. It’s nice to see that in a man’s eyes.
Yes, benefits abound, with pants on.
Perhaps, however, there is something sinister going on here. Not with them, but with me. And no, I would never be the “other woman.” Never. I was “the wife” I know what that’s like, I wouldn’t do that to another woman. And these guys wouldn’t do that to their wives anyway. No, what is sinister is that I’m getting my “man fix” without any chance of getting involved. It’s safe. Too safe. How will I find the courage or interest to have dinner with an available man, and all that implies, if instead I can hang with a man who I know I will never have a romantic relationship with, but who will, most likely, share a meal with me, tell me I look nice, and pick up the tab. I don’t have to worry about a kiss goodnight — or more, or when he should meet my kids, etc. Hell, these men either already know my kids or it is completely appropriate to introduce them to the guy because he is just another adult. Bonus — I don’t have to shave my legs or stock my goodie drawer since nothing will ever happen. I get to hang out with guys, but I don’t have to deal with any of that pesky dating stuff. Great, right? Wrong.
At a time when I have to literally force myself to be more social with adults, when I do socialize it is often with unavailable men. Sounds like a bit of escapism, don’t you think? No need for a degree in psychology to figure this one out. What about hanging with some women? Well, my female friends are a force to be reckoned with. They are smart, successful and together. They do not judge me — but I wish I was more like them and sometimes that makes me uncomfortable. Escapism and avoidance. I see it.
The solution is obvious. I need to spend time with men who are potentially available to me in all ways. I know this. And, frankly, it’s probably a good sign, a healthy sign, that the married, platonic friend thing is starting to bother me a bit. It’s not good for me to be so safe. I’m single. I need to spend time with single people. The married guys are all cool, and I want to keep our friendships, but I need to add an available man to the mix. While I’m making that happen, I need to reconnect with my female friends, and make new ones. For me it’s easier said than done, but at least I see it. I own it.
Still, I’d like to give a shout out for the proper married men who do the right thing at home but still take time out here and there to check in on, hang out with, or just help out a single woman going through some tough times. There are true gentlemen in the world. I just need to find one who doesn’t already have a wife.
Just Me With . . . a bit of armchair analysis.
Okay, so I’ve seen The Craigslist Killer movie, based on the true story of a serial killer who picked his victims on Craigslist. But I’ve allowed myself to indulge in a Craigslist Fantasy while I’m home sick with a cold and a hurt back.
Hell, it could happen, right?
This much is true: I’m selling a keyboard on Craigslist now. I got a response from a guy. Via text we’ve been making plans to meet so he can check it out. I had to reschedule once because I was too sick to deal with it, he responded by text that he hopes I feel better. Aw, that was nice.
And it got me to thinking . . .
What if . . .
Here’s the fantasy part (meaning none of this actually happened) . . .
Chris was scheduled to come on Sunday afternoon at 3:00. The kids were with my ex-husband. I started looking for him right before, because I don’t have a doorbell and my dogs were out back.
And there he was, a man at my door.
Chris was medium everything in my fantasy, medium-to-tall height, build, complexion, the kind of guy who could commit a crime and would not be remembered, except for his smile. A great smile. All and all, an impossibly nice mix of nerd and athlete. After all, this isn’t online dating, I don’t have to check all the boxes in my harmless fantasy. He was conveniently without race or ethnicity or age in my fantasy. He wasn’t big enough to scare me — since we are alone in my house, but he was big enough to be my manly fantasy — since we were alone in my house.
But I digress . . . from my own fantasy . . . so sad. Okay, back to it.
Out of habit I checked his hands. Clean and no ring. Good.
“Hey, how are you, I’m Chris.” He smiled, a Hollywood smile.
He seemed pleased to meet me. Which means my painstakingly effortless casual look had succeeded — tight tee-shirt and jeans, sneakers, but earrings,necklace, lipstick and blush. However, in an unconventional move — I left my glasses on and hair up in a clip. Hell, this wasn’t a date. Plus, if my glasses are on, I can get away with the lack of eye makeup, which means I don’t have to worry about taking off eye makeup later. (Always thinking, always planning, often lazy.) All in all, I presented a nice mix of nerdy femininity, thank you very much.
“Good, I’m Roxanne.””
“Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand.
I shook his hand, shouldn’t have, since I’ve been blowing my nose all day, but there was a man in my house and I was going to touch him, some way, some how . . .
“Anyway, the keyboard is downstairs.” Could you wait just a minute?
I pulled out my cell and called my mom, pretending that she was a boyfriend.
“Hey, sweetie, just wanted to let you know the man is here to look at the keyboard and I’ll call you later. No, take your time — he looks okay.” I smiled at him. “But you can come if you want.”
“Well, you can never be too careful.” Safety first, safety last, safety always. (I wonder if he carries condoms?)
He laughed again. So did I. I may have giggled. Damn.
The dogs were going crazy outside. He said, “You can let them in, I love dogs.” (Ding Ding, we have a winner.)
“No, they’re harmless, but they’ll be all over you.” (Insert obvious double entendre)
I showed him to the small door to my semi-finished basement and motioned him down.
He joked, “Now should I be scared?”
“Perhaps, a little.” (Bwah ha ha, you have no idea . . . )
I uncovered the keyboard and said, “Let me get it turned on.” (I thought, “I wanna turn him on.” Why? because he’s a man in my house. That’s all it takes. )
“Okay, looks good. Cool. Wow. ” Chris immediately starting playing, pushing the buttons, the joystick, changing sounds.
He was lost in the keyboard. Just like I like them, said the spider to the fly.
I watched him play with it for a bit. Keyboard technique only fair, but chording nice. Knows his way around electronics. For the first time in a long time I was not in a hurry for a person to leave my house. I offered him water. You should always offer a guest in your home something to drink.
“No, thanks, I’m good.” (Are you? I wonder.)
My back was aching and I needed to sit, so I sat at my son’s drums (which,by the way, are really mine). Before I knew it I was playing (at) drums along with him. Fun. To quote the great scholar — The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,
“A girlie who can play the drums can write her own ticket.“
Do ya think I’m sexy now, man in my house?
Chris wanted the keyboard. Yay! (I wanted him. Yes, I like musicians, even part-time basement musicians.) I explained to him that I threw my back out and couldn’t help him carry it. “Oh, I can probably do it.” He got up to lift the keyboard to test the weight. I watched.
Biceps, good. Oh my gosh, what is wrong with me?
His pants were too baggy for butt evaluation, which is good, because if he’d had on skinny jeans? Well, that would have been bad.
All in all. I like this guy, I thought.
He likes music and the same music gear I own. Good.
He’s got manners. Good.
He has a job of some sort because we had to schedule around it. Good.
So far he hasn’t tried to kill me. Very good.
A fleeting thought — I keep duct tape in my gig bag in the basement; he’s in my basement. Hmmm. I briefly considered getting out the duct tape to ensure a longer visit, but I decided against that. Sigh.
“Oh, I forgot about the case. It’s upstairs. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get everything down because of my back. Can you help bring it down?”
This meant he had to walk through my house to the upstairs attic storage.
I saw him glance in my bedroom. My bedroom is nice. Kind of hotel chic. Not too feminine. In other words, man ready. Yeah, baby.
My kids’ bedrooms? Not so nice. Messy. The kids weren’t home, and I have been too sick and hurt to clean their rooms. I apologized for the messes. He shrugged and said, “You should have seen my room when I was a kid.” (I’d like to see his room now.)
“Do you have kids?” I ask.
“No, I’m not married.” (I love that answer). “I’m still a big kid myself.” (I don’t know about that answer, but he was a man in my house.)
“My kids are with their dad today.” Awkward silence. Why did I say that? This is horrible, I’m awkward even in my own fantasy.
Why? why? did I say “their dad” ? Then I remembered my fake boyfriend call I’d made to my mother when he arrived. Oh no! So now he thinks I have multiple kids and at least one baby daddy plus a boyfriend. Damn. Not well-played. Now the awesome task in front of me was to slip in “Ex-Husband” and “single” in the conversation in the next 45 seconds.
I can be skilled in the art of conversation when I have to be (i.e. when I’ve already messed things up), so when he commented on a painting of me, I casually mentioned that it was the only thing my ex-husband gave me that I kept, other than the kids — ha ha — and that it was painted in Europe and I fantasize about moving to France when my kids get out of school — and I added, slipped in, really,
“I’m single and free, right?”
“Right.” He smiled.
Well-played, Roxanne, well-played.
Then Chris asked, the dreaded, inevitable question. He asked me how many kids I have. I mean, he saw the boy’s drums, now he was walking through my girls’ rooms and there are baby pictures on the walls upstairs.
Well, this is tricky. I have five children. Five. Sometimes I’m afraid to tell guys that. But I have to say, they don’t seem to care that much. Still, it’s a substantial number.
“Five. I have five kids.”
“Wow.” And he did what many do, glance at my waist. I pretended to ignore that.
“Yeah, you got that right. Wow. But I had them two at a time . . . so.”
We had the twin conversation and he adds the obligatory, “You’ve got your hands full,” thing. Blah Blah Blah. My stock may have plummeted. Damn kids. Whatever. There’s a man in my house!!!! Perhaps I should reconsider the duct tape to keep him here, I thought, now that he knows I have five kids. Hmmm.
So, long story short, in my fantasy I stood there and watched him load the keyboard and I didn’t drip snot on my chest. Lots of biceps and sweating were involved, his, which I enjoyed. He paid what I quoted, didn’t try to talk me down, and said, in parting, “I hope you feel better.” Aw, that was nice. (Which is how this whole thing got started.)
In my fantasy conclusion, my Craigslist guy doesn’t kill me. He calls me. And he comes to my next gig.
I don’t allow myself to fantasize any further than that . . .
Just Me With . . . a Craigslist fantasy. The G-Rated one, anyway.
Postscript from real life: Just got a text from him checking in, saying, “Before I made other plans later I wanted to ask how you are doing.” Aw. He wanted to know if today was going to work for me. He ended with, “FYI, I’m in no rush, in any case. Take care, Chris.” I replied that I’d reschedule and hold the keyboard for him.
I think I’m in love.
So the fantasy continues . . . for another day. Because today I feel like crap, look a hot mess, and walk funny.
Final Postscript from real life: He came to my house to see the keyboard — with his girlfriend. Sigh. At least he bought it. I used the money to pay off a credit card. Next fantasy? Becoming debt-free.
I had an unfortunate conversation with an old friend the other night. Well, the whole conversation wasn’t unfortunate, but she said something that kind of got under my skin. She said, “Online dating? I wouldn’t do it.” She was emphatic, a bit superior. She added, “I don’t need that to meet men. I can meet men on my own.” I pointed out that she has a man, so how does she know? She responded, “Even if I didn’t have him, I still would never do it. I prefer to meet men the regular way.”
It helps to have context here. She is currently living with a man, he’s “the one.” They say they are going to get married, but since they aren’t going to have kids, for them there’s no hurry. Her man is an old college friend. She didn’t date him when we were in college. They didn’t get together until many years later, when he revealed to her he always had a thing for her. (Yeah, romantic crap, blah, blah, blah.) Prior to that she’d had long-term relationships and had gone a significant period of time with no men at all. She’s very attractive. Beautiful skin, face, smile, sculpted arms and a belly that would make women half her age jealous. She can rock a sleeveless belly shirt like no one else. Scary smart and a brilliant conversationalist. She can engage a lamp-post in witty repartee. Consequently, she can meet men, easily. And she’s damn picky about them, too.
Me? I am now single. I don’t feel like talking about my appearance, but “I clean up good.”
Also, I guess it’s relevant that she and I are old enough that when we were young enough there wasn’t really online dating, and “personals” were primarily for the freaks or desperate. Still, she was single and at times unattached during the emergence of the online thing. I wasn’t.
Actually, I was seriously put off my the tone of her comments. I mean, I’m attractive, and I mean shit — I play in a band (sometimes) for goodness sake! The fact that I would consider the online thing doesn’t make me desperate. So I told her, “I get hit on, too. It’s just that the guys that I see in my daily doings aren’t the guys for me.” See Landscaper series I, II and III and the Fake Boyfriend story. She didn’t get it. Whatever.
Online dating is not for the desperate or freaks, but I guess some people will never understand that — because they don’t have to. They don’t have to because they are in a relationship, not because they are pretty enough to meet men “the regular way.” And I’m not even doing online dating now, having decided not to (for now) for specific personal reasons (blog post coming), but not because I think online dating is for the unfortunates. And there are plenty, plenty of dating disasters that did not begin with an online profile.
Her comments bothered me, though. Was I being overly sensitive? Was it Just Me With a little paranoia?
Hell, I might create yet another dating profile now . . . just, well just . . . because . . . humph.
Just Me With . . . a bit of an attitude.
I haven’t been to a wedding in years. Well, except taking my kids to see their teacher get married. Actually even before my marriage ended, I swore off most weddings. I married young, my parents didn’t really approve and didn’t rejoice in it. His family was, well, not traditional. And although it was okay, I started to envy the grown-up, joyous, better funded and better planned weddings I witnessed later. I usually went alone to my friends’ weddings anyway, my Ex hated weddings more than I did. After a while, I just stopped going to the very few invitations I got, unless it was a command performance family thing.
But this wedding was of the daughter of a woman who is a good, special person. The mother of the bride, Liz, her husband and daughters are former neighbors. Liz selflessly helped me — and my family — for a prolonged period in my prolonged time of need. She’ll be a topic of another post at a later time. Suffice it to say, as much I am usually disgusted by the mere thought of going to a wedding and reception, the fact that I haven’t been to one since my separation and divorce (even blew off my bridesmaid’s destination wedding — and she understood, see Remote Attendance at Weddings — Royal or Otherwise), I had to go to this one. I wanted to go to this one. Kind of. I wanted to see, but I didn’t want to go. In my fantasy world, I’d be the proverbial fly on the wall, I would materialize just long enough to congratulate the family, and then — Poof! Gone! But as I’ve discovered over the years, I am not magic.
First, let me say that the bridal shower was the day after my ex-husband got married.
(Insert knife, turn) See, I Was “The Nanny” When My Ex-Husband Got Married.
Next, I was invited, but the invitation did not allow me to bring a guest. Liz had given me a heads up earlier that they just couldn’t invite all of my kids to the reception, though they could come to the ceremony. I completely understood that, no problem. Five plates for kids, totally not worth it. And I also understand that it is appropriate to invite a single guest without including an invitation for him or her to bring a nameless date — some stranger to share in the bride and groom’s a special day. I get that.
It’s just that I’m a bit sensitive and unused to being single — truly legally single, at a wedding. But that was what was going to happen. As I said, I’ve gone stag before to weddings, my Ex skipped the receptions for both my best friend and my sister’s weddings, he didn’t want to go with me to my college friends’ weddings, which was fine, I had more fun without him with that crowd. So I’m used to doing things alone, before, during and now after my marriage. See, The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone. But this was different. These people, to varying degrees, witnessed my nervous breakdown.
My kids love the mother of the bride, Liz, know her well, and the Bride and her sister used to babysit them from time to time and were my mother’s helpers when I had infant and toddler twins — so that I could, you know, wash myself or something. So I thought the kids would want to see the ceremony at a local church. Wrong. Only one managed to get off of the couch to go to the wedding. One daughter.
We walked in together. Me and my girl.
The church was full of familiar faces, familiar friendly faces. This wedding was a neighborhood affair, the neighborhood where the “marital” home was, the neighborhood to which I had brought all of my kids home from the hospital and neighbors showered us with gifts, the neighborhood where we were living when my family fell apart, the neighborhood from which the kids and I moved when I had to downsize. Most of these people knew my story. Many had seen me cry. So it was at once a very comfortable and a little awkward reunion.
A very sweet woman and her husband sat in the pew in front of us. Sally, I’ll call her. She used to live across the street from me. Correction, I used to live across the street from her. This woman has always been very supportive. She has suffered horrible tragedy in her life. After surviving breast cancer, including all of the necessary multiple surgeries and treatments, her oldest son died in a senseless accident at college. Unspeakable. Still, Sally is very outspoken, says whatever the hell is on her mind and adores her family. She has no love lost for my Ex and is one of the few people who has refused to exchange pleasantries with him. If looks could kill I would have been a widow long before I became a divorcee. She’d heard of his wedding.
Before the ceremony began, she turned to my daughter and asked, with a hint of a sneer,
“How was your Dad’s wedding?“
Me, in my head:
“Uh,What the hell? Oh no, make it stop, don’t show emotion, ahhhhh”
Me, in my head:
“Ahhh. No, please don’t talk about that. Not now. Not with my daughter. Not in front of me. Not at a wedding. NOOOO No No No NO NO NO. Please don’t say anything more, please.”
Sally pursed her lips; I held my breath. I could tell she was holding something back. I didn’t want her to say anything else. Thankfully, she turned around without saying more. I could tell she couldn’t figure out what to say that would express her opinion but wouldn’t be inappropriate to say in front of my daughter. So she self-censored, thank goodness. But it was a bit too late — for me. Oh my daughter was fine, but it made me feel like crap. I’m at a wedding and have to listen to my kid being questioned about my Ex’s wedding? Ouch.
(Insert knife, turn, twice.)
The music was Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz, the bride was beautiful and spoke intelligently as they read their own vows, the groom looked thankful and promised to walk beside her — but also behind her as she achieved her success, and in front of her to shield her from danger. There were meaningful readings, and a very short sermon. (Actually, the minister was the one who referenced that this was a moment in time between an earthquake and a hurricane, I don’t want to use the words of a man of the cloth without giving him proper credit — lightning strike averted.) Anyway, the wedding was elegant without being stuffy, comfortable without being tacky. I would expect no less from and want no less for this family. They are good, good people. (And I barely had any of my normal internal negative running monologue about how everybody says the right things in the church, and may even mean it at the time, but . . . ) Perhaps I still believe in love after all. Huh. I just wish I could forget my regrets . . . but I digress . . .
During the ceremony I saw Sally grab her husband’s hand and squeeze it. He squeezed back. She laid her head on his shoulder. It was a sweet moment for the long-married couple. They have been through hell. This man eulogized his own son, for God’s sake. Through it all, though, they love each other, deeply. I was happy for them, too.
But as I was sitting there, it occurred to me: I had not felt this alone in a long while.
After the ceremony while still at the church Sally apologized to me for her comment about my Ex’s wedding. She explained what I already knew, that in her mind she was thinking it was nice for my daughter to see a young (but old enough) couple get married, both for the first time, with no baggage or no kids, from nice families, etc., kind of “the way it should be” — in contrast to what she imagined my Ex’s wedding was like with his five kids in tow, after a really cruel breakup and nasty divorce. I get it. And I know she meant well, but the apology made me feel worse. I just wanted to forget about it.
I had to drop my daughter back home before going to the reception. While there I had to mediate arguments over dinner and television. It was bad enough that I was going somewhere, a wedding reception no less, alone, but I also had to fight with my kids first.
Walking into the reception alone, I panicked for a second until I found my old friends, couples from the old neighborhood. Some of these folks have been beyond good to me, from sending me dinners, lending me money, to appearing as witnesses at court, one I’ve written about already, When I Needed a Helping Hand, and I may write about others. It’s important to share stories about goodness in the world. I’d seen some of these people recently so the greetings were more casual. From others, however, I got that “So how are you doing?” head tilt. Does anyone remember the Friends episode where Richard (Tom Selleck) tells Monica about how people greet him after his divorce? Yeah, that.
On a positive note, though, I also got the “You look great!” comment. That was nice, because these people had seen me when I didn’t look so great (huge understatement).
It was a sit down dinner, and we (meaning me and the couple I was talking to) made our way to our table where I discovered that —
I was seated at a table with four couples.
(Insert knife, turn three times.)
I felt so, so SINGLE — but not in a good way. Plus, I was also the only person of color at my table, which isn’t a big deal nor unexpected but it just fed into my feeling of being so obviously, visually ALONE. (Singing the Sesame Street song, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here . . .”)
Plus, these long-time married couples reminisced about their own weddings and remarked about how the bride and her friends probably just think “we’re the old guys” now.
(Insert knife, turn four times.)
So, now, not only was I without an escort and a third wheel — or more accurately a ninth wheel, I was one of the old guys, hanging out with happily middle-aged, comfortable, prosperous, tipsy, married people. After all, they had each other, good jobs, good times — past, present and future. And, they were having a good time at the wedding. It was all good. Except for me, I felt like I was watching everyone else have a good time, hell, a good life. I know things are not always what they seem, I know that couples are not always happy and certainly not all the time. Oh yeah, I know that. I mean, I was married once, you know. But I didn’t really want to talk to couples as couples and the truth is, as couples, as a group, I have less in common with them than I did before. If I had I been feeling better or had been drinking, I might have gone out to dance with the young singles, but I know that would have been — weird. My time for that is gone (and I’d never really experienced it, having married so young, and not been a drinker).
Eventually, we got up to mingle and dance.
I danced with other couples.
(Insert knife, turn five times.)
One married woman commented on a cute younger single guy, but added “not that he’d want a broken down broad like me.” This woman is not broken down, and is attractive (as is her husband). Suddenly I felt old by association. She was cool with it, because she does not need new male companionship. Well, I do. And what if I’m a broken down broad, or at least categorized that way? Remember that early Sex and the City episode when Samantha dates a younger man who actually refers to her as an older woman? She was shocked, like “Is that how he sees me?” It’s one thing to be alone, it’s another to feel like you’ve been put out to pasture. Especially when you’ve never even been to the Rodeo (enough bad analogies, I know). See Undateable, Part II.
My friend Sally had had a few drinks, or not, she didn’t really need it. She doesn’t need alcohol to express herself. It was so good to see she and her husband out and enjoying themselves. After the death of their son — well, I didn’t know if Sally would be able to go on. I can’t blame her. But here she was, loud and sassy, dancing with her husband. At one point she said to me, “It’s so nice to be at a wedding instead of a funeral.” Then she flitted off.
Later, out of nowhere she pulled me, actually grabbed and pulled me from my conversation with another ex-neighbor, and dragged me to the dance floor. I thought she just wanted to get me to dance.
Wrong! To my horror, she was dragging me out there to catch the bridal bouquet. There I was with the 28-year old, child-free, professional, drunk friends of the bride and groom. Awkward.
(Insert knife with serrated edge, turn six times.)
“You didn’t even try!” She scolded me when I failed to catch the bouquet.
She was right. I didn’t even try.
“You deserve a good man,” She said.
See, you gotta love her. Her heart is in the right place. She wants me to believe in love. She still does. And apparently she believes that the bouquet thing actually works.
Sally does love, deeply, even though she has suffered so. She calls her husband her soul-mate, yet outwardly they seem to be opposites. Anyone remember the show Dharma and Greg? The flower child woman who marries the blue blood attorney? Yeah Sally and Rob are like that, but older — she’s an artist, a former dancer, a wild child, dog-lover, mouthy and loud — he’s a straight-laced corporate type. But their love has survived cancer and the death of their first-born, along with the debilitating depression that followed. That’s some serious love. So I can’t be mad at her. I was happy to see her smile. And I’m glad people care about my happiness and wish me the best.
But being dragged out onto the dance floor to catch the wedding bouquet? Awkward. I’m not going to fight bridesmaids who used to babysit my kids to catch a freakin’ wedding bouquet. No.
When I returned the self-described “broken down broad” whispered to me when I got back, “I tried to warn you.” I hadn’t heard her. Damn.
Well, I made it until it was an acceptable time to leave. I walked out with another couple. Liz gave me a centerpiece to take home. Beautiful flowers, but hard to carry home — ALONE. Damn thing fell over as I drove, I had no one to hold it for me or drive while I held it. Another pang of loneliness hit me. It was pretty. I like flowers, but I didn’t need a souvenir from a wedding. You might recall that my kids brought me back leftover flowers from my ex-husband’s wedding. See I Was The Nanny When My Ex-Husband Got Married.
Bottom line is: I love this family. That’s why I went. But in going I had taken a trip back to a prior life and felt that I didn’t belong there. It reminded me of how much my world has changed, and moreover, it reminded me that no matter how single — free — I am now, there is no complete “do-over” for me. It was appropriate for me to be seated with those couples. They are my friends. But it did cause me to be fearful that it was a snapshot of what I can expect from now on . . . feeling like a kid at the grown-up table . . . but too old to be at the kids’ table. The night was also a painful reminder of how bad the bad times had been for me and of how many people at this affair had witnessed them. I look forward to seeing these people individually, but the whole wedding thing was just too much for me. I’m a sensitive sort.
I left feeling happy for the bride, groom and the families. But I came home feeling pretty down. I had tried, but I could not have fun. Just couldn’t do it. Still, I’m glad I went to this particular wedding, the bride being the daughter of an angel and all, even though it took an emotional toll.
I know I have much to be thankful for; but I’ve been known to suffer from the melancholy anyway (another understatement).
Let me be clear, though. I do not miss being married to my Ex, or being married at all. I did not wish he was there and did not wish I’d had a date or boyfriend. In fact, I can’t imagine ever getting married again, let alone being someone’s girlfriend. My sadness stems from all the crap I’ve gone through (and the fact that so many of the people at that wedding knew about my crap, and have seen me at my worst), and it all leaves me wondering,
“Where do I fit in? ”
You see, I didn’t envy the couples I was seated with. Well, maybe I envy their prior youthful shenanigans that I missed out on, but I feared their present state of being settled and okay with being “the old guys” or a “broken down broad.” That’s not me. Yet I didn’t belong out there catching the bouquet either. Truth is, I didn’t belong at any table. I should have been a fly on the wall.
I haven’t felt right since, to tell the truth. It was a hard, beautiful night. And the next night, well . . . there was a hurricane.
Just Me With . . . some leftover wedding flowers . . . again — But NOT the bouquet!
I recently took The New Walk of Shame for the Single Woman: Going Out Alone. I had attended a jam session/fundraising event by myself. Something happened on my out, though, that I could have handled differently.
The jam session was nearing the end. People had come and gone throughout the evening, but the night was almost over. When a group of guys left I decided to walk out with them so I wouldn’t have to navigate out of the creepy building and out into the night alone. I waved goodbye to the host, who was busy playing keyboards. He gave me the “call me” sign as I followed the others out. The others were father and son guitar players and an Up and Coming Rapper (Question: Why do so many Rappers call themselves Up and Coming?)and his Manager. Together we figured out where to take the stairs down (no one knew how to work the freight elevator), and we walked out together making small talk on the way out.
The Up and Coming Rapper and his Manager’s conversation was spiced with curse words about how tired they were because they had come from another industry event. I tried to pin them down about where they were coming from (they were late arrivals at the jam session, just there for some face time I think), but the Manager was vague. Exiting the building, the father and son disappeared, leaving me with the Up and Coming Rapper and his Manager.
The Manager, who was lighting up a cigarette, called to me:
“Hold up, you married?” And the evening had been going so well, I lamented.
“No” I responded, because I’m not married anymore, I have not been legally married for five months (but who’s counting).
I kept walking. He followed.
“You single, you got a boyfriend?”
“Yes, I’m single.”
“So you single?”
“Yes.” Because I am. I am so damn single.
“You got kids?”
“Five. I’m divorced.” (With so many kids, sometimes I feel the need to explain that I was once married.)
“Yeah, I’m divorced, too.” He said. “Well, can I give you my number?”
“I’m not into hanging out with anybody right now.” My stock answer.
“Neither am I, you know we can just . . . (he ran through a littany of over the top activities I have no interest in, then other tamer activities, I have no interest in sharing with him.) ” Then he said some other stuff. But I wasn’t listening. I just wanted to get in my car and go home.
“So can I give you my number?” He was persistent, and my stock rejection line hadn’t worked.
“Uh, sure.” Why? Why? Why? Because I’m an idiot. See The Landscaper Guy and The Female Chandler Bing.
Have I mentioned that I’m not really used to being single?
As I started to put his number in my phone and hoped for a sudden attack of dyslexia, he said, “Let me see,” and actually leaned over to look at my phone to make sure I was really entering his number! Geesh.
Then I said, “Well, I gotta go. Nice to meet you.” He made some other small talk I can’t remember —- or I just wasn’t listening.
As he started to walk away he turned and said,
“So are you gonna call?”
Ohhhh. I was just minutes from a clean get away (like Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment).
“We’ll see.” I said in what I thought a nice voice. I am so freakin’ bad at this crap.
“We’ll see,” he parroted back, mimicking my nice voice, in a not-so-nice way, and he jogged up the block to join the Up and Coming Rapper, who was waiting for him, smoking.
*shudder* I got in my car as quickly as possible.
Obviously, I just was not feeling this guy. I did not like his approach. I did not care for his manner of speaking. I’m not a smoker. I wasn’t impressed with his industry talk. I didn’t even enjoy his client’s music. Just — ick. It occurred to me later that the whole exchange could have been avoided had I just said, “I’m seeing someone.” After all, his questions about my relationship status seem to suggest that having another man in the picture was a deal-breaker for him.
Why didn’t I just comply and pull out the fake boyfriend?
The Fabricated Boyfriend can be very convenient. Single women have been using him for years,
I think he dates back to the Stone Age.
My answer: Because I thought I was supposed to be embracing my new single status.
In my tortured thinking, since I had been someone’s girlfriend or wife for many, many years, I thought that I was supposed to say loud and proud — I’m single, unattached, free. WRONG!!! Isn’t it the prerogative of a true single lady to lie when necessary and expedient? For safety? To save time or someone’s dignity? C’mon — the ole “I’m not feeling well” or “I’m not ready yet” or “It’s not you, it’s me” ? It’s married people who can’t lie. If you are married, you’d better ‘fess up to your status. If you are single, you can be creatively coupled when necessary, in my after-the-fact humble opinion.
The bottom line is, I knew I was never going to call this guy. And that’s okay. Being single doesn’t mean that I have to entertain every offer of male companionship I receive, I’ve learned. See Landscaper Dude and a Phone Smarter Than Me. That said, I was standing on the street alone with Rapper Manager and was in a situation where I had to reject him and provide a valid explanation which would end the exchange yet not piss him off. I had to say something. I should have lied.
So what have I learned from this? Okay, yes, I am Single. Not married. No boyfriend. But not every person in every situation needs to know this. Being single doesn’t mean I that I have to be so damn honest about it. Had I lied immediately and said I have a boyfriend, Rapper’s Manager guy could have walked away with his dignity, I could have walked away without fear of retaliation or passive aggressive nastiness.
Going forward with my new single status, I reserve the right to pull out the fake boyfriend as the situation demands. I realize now that it is not a sign of weakness, especially when going out alone, nor is it a sad attempt to cling to my previous “couple” status. Some guys just need to go away by any means necessary and I will concoct an imaginary boyfriend when I need to, damn it.
Just Me With . . . a boyfriend . . . in my pocket.
For a rejection without use of a fake boyfriend, see “I Turned Down A Dinner Date With An Ex-Con.”
On Twitter I dubbed it “The New Walk of Shame for The Single Woman — Going Out Alone,” though there’s nothing really shameful about it. It’s just not something that I want to be so . . . obvious, or frequent for that matter. But of course it is what it is.
Still, as I walked out of my house in the ‘burbs, wearing a little black top, jeans and heels on a Saturday evening right before nightfall, I felt the little ick. Perhaps under cover of darkness I would have felt differently. After all, I was just going out. I wasn’t turning tricks or anything. (Ironically, even prostitutes are usually getting into a car with someone. Not me. Solo all the way.) Still, I felt weird, exposed.
In the first place, I hadn’t felt like going out at all. I was exhausted and frankly, tired of going places alone, tired of driving. I also hadn’t been sleeping well and had forgotten to eat — again. See, Confessions of a Skinny Mom. Additionally, I tend to be “melancholy” (sounds so much better than clinically depressed) and it’s hard for me to get out — yet that is exactly what I must do, or so I’m told. Plus, I really hate driving and this was going to be about a thirty minute ride. On the other hand, had I stayed home, well, there may have been tears or chores or nothing special, followed by guilt and anger for the tears, chores or nothing special. See Weekends Off. I would have beaten myself up for not going out on the one of two nights a month when the kids are gone and when this time, coincidentally– luckily, there was actually someplace where I could go — alone. Oh yeah, there was a whole carnival fun house of competing emotions going on my head. So I forced myself to go out. This again is where it is helpful to have people with you. When required to meet someone or when a friend is picking you up, you can’t bail. That little voice that says “just stay home” is naturally squelched. But when going out alone, well, a woman can change her mind at the last minute. A woman’s prerogative. No one would be disappointed, no one would be left waiting, no one would be the wiser. I confess that I have driven myself places, or attempted to drive myself places and gotten lost, not found parking, etc. and ended up turning around and going home without ever having left the car. This has happened, more than once.
On this particular night I got the ick walking to my car. It probably hadn’t helped that I’d just watched the Season Five Sex And The City Episode where Carrie does not have a “Plus One” for her big book release party and admits to loneliness, Charlotte admits to not liking the sound of talking about her divorce and Miranda avoids telling a man she’s become a mother. All three of those hit home for me.
So as I walked to my car to go out, my feeling was somewhat reminiscent of the traditional “Walk of Shame” home that a woman makes in broad daylight, wearing the same clothes from the night before. That look screams: “You had somebody last night, you were doing something all night, but now you’re on your own, and everybody knows it.”
I felt like the walk to my car in daylight and heels screamed: “Single woman, all alone and trying to get some action.” It’s my own paranoia, fueled by the fact that I’ve been known to “people watch,” and I know that if I saw myself going out like that in daylight — alone on a Saturday evening— I’d say,
“I wonder where she’s going?“
I just wanted to get in my car as quickly as possible.
I realize that the fact that I play music gives me a huge advantage for going out alone. Music provides me with night-time activities, like jam sessions, or going out to listen to other musicians I know play, where I can have a really good excuse for being alone, even in bars. This particular event was a jam session/fundraiser for a music studio run by a guy I’d gone to school with many years ago. I’m on his mailing list and get impersonal invitations all the time. I’d never gone before. I’d never really seriously considered going. But this was going to be the night that I would actually go, damn it. I felt obligated — not to him — but to me. It was a timing thing. It was a night I could go, and a place to go.
The studio was at a location I’d never been to, in the part of the city where I’ve gotten lost more than once. But it is a new world now. I wasn’t really traveling alone, not anymore — now I had my new best friend Miss GPS, who right now is a very polite British woman. Let’s call her Emma. Emma tells me when to turn and when to “take the Motorway.” I programmed Emma and she guided my journey. Once I “reached my destination” and parked, I checked in with my Twitter friends, who were giving me the thumbs up for going out alone.
Okay. Lipstick on, glasses off. Valuables (meaning Emma) hidden, car locked. I retrieved the entry code for the security door from my email invitation and was ready to go. Following the prompts, I entered the code on the door.
Unfortunately, the call went directly to voicemail, which was full! Crap. No one was answering to buzz me in.
I tried again, repeatedly. This is when having someone with me might have been helpful. You know, someone to complain to, bounce ideas off of . . . someone to make me not look so stupid. I mean, picture it, a woman alone, dressed for going out, in an iffy neighborhood, standing in front of a building and —– no one is buzzing her in!
Tragic, I tell you. Tragic.
I went back to the safety of my car. Safe, that is, from the public humiliation of being rejected by a security entry door. I was about to tweet about my epic failure of the night and go home, when, out of the corner of my eye I saw that someone had opened the door. It was my Knight in Shining Armor (or, more accurately, some guy in a Lucky Brand Jeans Tee-Shirt)! Yay! Someone had been sent down to let me in! My calls were not unanswered! I was not going to be left alone in my car to do the drive of shame back home. I was going in!
The Lucky Brand guy whom I’d never met showed me upstairs in the not completely renovated warehouse type building, walking me down long narrow hallways of exposed brick. We took the freight elevator up. I wondered for a moment whether I should have told someone where I was going so that if I were to say — go missing — my loved ones would have a general location to give to the police for questioning.
But no worries, I safely entered the studio, full of people who were not scary. I panicked for a split second when I didn’t see the only guy I expected to know. But he was there, and when he saw me, he gave me a hug and said,
“What a nice surprise.”
First part of my mission had been accomplished. I had arrived, alone, albeit slightly overdressed. But I was there. Doing the visual room check it appeared that most people came with someone, of course. Some were couples, some were related, some were friends. While the people were open with introductions, they mostly talked to each other. I immediately joined the jam, avoiding the standing alone awkwardness. When I wasn’t playing I parked myself in an area to watch and listen (and where, by design, I didn’t have to talk). One other good (or bad) thing about music events is that a person can be there and never really have a conversation at all and, more importantly, the lack of conversation is not so obvious. This makes my attendance “minus a Plus One” a little less alone, and it comes as quite a relief to my road dog, Ms. Social Anxiety, who is often with me, even if no one else can see her . . . bwa ha ha ha.
In the end, though, I got out of the house, out of my neighborhood, and stepped out of the box (a different type of music, even played a different instrument for a little while). Plus, I do love music. And it is absolutely true that music brings people together without any talking at all — it breaks down both language and more importantly for me, social barriers, and really, how cool is that?
My English Electronic Friend Emma and I returned home safely — under cover of darkness.
Just Me With . . . no shame after a night out, alone.
And I got hit on . . . Where Did I Put My Fake Boyfriend?