I’ve established that I’m not ready to date, or at least I’m not ready to make a sport or hobby out of it. UnDateable, Part I.
But as I was writing about it, I heard from the TV in the background,
Matt to thirty-year-old New Christine: “You met him when you were 26. Now you’re 30. Trust me, from a guy’s perspective, that’s depreciation.” The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Scary statement. And the statement was to New Christine, the younger, shiny replacement model. That statement drove her to drink.
Imagine how scary it is if you a woman who is neither 26 or 30. Imagine if you are Old Christine, which is who I’d be in that scenario. Hmmm. Talk about depreciation.
So while I’m not dating, taking care of me, getting myself together, climbing out of the hole of depression and debt, yada yada yada, I hear something– tick-tock, tick-tock — no, it’s not that biological clock ticking — I have enough kids thank you — no, I hear another clock . A clock that (in my mind) will sound a silent alarm which will summon (in my mind) a giant iron hand from our misogynistic -youth-obsessed-paternal-madonna-whore- heaven to snatch me up and drop me straight into Old-Lady-Ville where all mothers or non-mothers over a certain age apparently belong, according to decent society (in my mind). I’ll be forcibly taken to a place where women are always covered from head to toe in solid colors, no one has sex, discussion is only about women’s health or lack thereof, and no one is ever seen again in public — well, not until the woman becomes a grandmother. Grandmothers can leave Old-Lady-Ville on holidays if they come bearing cookies and something made from yarn.
Old-Lady-Ville is a scary place. It’s a place where women are not supposed to wear, say, do, want or feel “that” anymore. (i.e. the people who criticize Madonna) “That” being anything that men like seeing women not in Old-Lady-Ville wear, say, do, want or feel. Where sexuality is either non-existent or the butt of a joke (i.e. Betty White). I’m not ready for that place. I can still pull off some looks and still want to be able to do — stuff. But that won’t last forever. Or at least that won’t be socially acceptable forever.
So I don’t feel like I can take my time. I don’t have years. Not in this market.
Okay, that tick-tock — that iron hand taking me to Old-Lady-Ville — is horrifying, but I know it’s in my head. I’m mean I’m not crazy. (Insert laughter here) But the calendar? That’s real — and worse. The calendar says that if I wait too long, I’ll have to check a different age box on the online profiles which will, effectively, make me ineligible for yet another whole generation of men, if I wasn’t out of the running already. Or, the horror, if I wait too, too long, I’ll have to go to the sites for . . . (gasp) seniors !!!!!! (Insert scary movie music.) And where it used to be completely socially acceptable for a woman’s age to have a fluid quality to it, in order to avoid the abduction to Old-Lady-Ville, the internet has taken this option from us.
Bottom line. It could take years for me to get myself together. In the meantime, I will have depreciated. So whatever it is, my imaginary iron hand or the real calendar, it scares the crap outta me. Clearly. It almost scares me enough to create yet another online dating profile, even though I’m not ready. But it’s do or die — or be put out to pasture, or Old-Lady-Ville.
(I know how paranoid I sound, trust me.)
I just don’t want to be the dude who dutifully, painstakingly, and slowly restores a previously neglected Victorian home with plans to sell, but by the time it is perfect and ready to go on the market, well, the neighborhood has gone to crap and no one will even drive by — except, of course, as a short cut to the “new construction” in the next subdivision. Five years earlier, the home would not have been perfect but he could still unload it. Five years earlier, it could stop traffic, or at least slow it down. Wait too long? Not so much. People just drive by.
Timing. It’s all about timing. And it’s not the same for guys, not in the open market.
I blame the economy.
Just Me With . . . fears, needs and more than a little paranoia. Shhhh. Did you hear something?
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:
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.
If you’ve read My High School Self, you know I had a very serious boyfriend in high school. We were still dating when I went away to college. My boyfriend lived at home and commuted to a local school in the city. I, like my sisters before me, went away to school, at a private, residential four-year university. This was in the dark ages, meaning before everyone had cell phones. I had two roommates and we shared a land line in our room.
To keep in touch, my boyfriend and I had set up a calling schedule while I was away. He called on Friday and Saturday nights at 11:00pm. Think about it. Weekends at 11pm. This was not good for my social life. Not at all. It suited him, though. He came home on Friday nights an had nothing to do and no one to do it with.
The weekend calls placed me in an awkward position. If I went out with people I’d have to come back alone by 11 for the call. If I waited until after the call, it would be too late, people were either already out and about or by the time I got off the phone they might be coming home.
I was having a hard time fitting in anyway. I didn’t drink. Most of the freshman nightlife had to do with drinking at Frat Parties and such. (Frat Parties were so important I still feel the need to capitalize it). But I just wasn’t the Frat Party type. And there was the dating scene, of which I was not a part because I already had a boyfriend. And, at this time in the dark ages and at this university, as a woman of color I was kind of invisible to the cute Frat boys. Plus, I felt I needed to show my boyfriend I was doing the right thing, or more accurately, not the wrong thing, while I was away. I didn’t want him to think I was drinking, cheating, changing in any way or even having a good time. He was lonely. Most of his friends (including his girlfriend) had gone away to school and he hadn’t. He had gone from big man at High School to being just another commuting student in college. I knew how miserable he was and I wanted to be there for him. I was also determined to beat the odds and show the world that I could fulfill my academic promise yet still keep my boyfriend and be faithful to the parameters of our relationship. Yes, co-dependency at its finest, ladies and gentlemen. Neither one of us was going to be happy if we clung to each other and our mutual miseries, limitations and fears.
My college had a homogeneous population (huge understatement). The university was not known for being diverse or popular among people of color, who were a very small minority there. And the majority of the majority were from suburban or rural areas, or prep schools and really had not been exposed to much diversity and did not choose this college in order to be exposed to different types of people. So many of them had the same backgrounds, ambitions and interests. For folks not in the mainstream, sometimes the culture shock was an insurmountable obstacle. Add to that the fact that the school is in the middle of nowhere. There was no town or city to which to escape from the suffocating sameness. Consequently, people of color, foreign students, and city kids regardless of socio-economic status would sometimes seek each other out for support. I, in addition to being African-American, was more of the creative type, and just, well . . . different. But being a suburban girl, I thought I’d be okay there; I didn’t expect a culture shock at all. What a silly girl I was, I did not fully appreciate the level of isolation and cultural homogeneity I had signed up for. This place made my vanilla suburb seem like the Rainbow Coalition. My sisters (who attended similar schools) assured me that once I found friends I’d be hanging out in dorms playing cards and listening to music. At my college, the only people I’d met so far just went out to the Frat houses and drank. I felt invisible yet at the same time exposed — like I stuck out like a sore thumb — not drinking, not dating, not looking like the other kids — it was a culture shock.
If that wasn’t enough, by the luck of the draw I had been assigned to the only female freshman dorm located “up hill” on campus. It was physically removed from the other dorms and the upper class houses which were all “down hill.” Frat houses and most of the lecture halls were “up hill.” I wasn’t really sure what was “down hill,” other than the cafeteria. But I was beginning to realize that unless I started to go out somewhere, I wasn’t going to meet people outside of my dorm floor. Yeah, I was having a hard time fitting in . . . again.
Then I got an invitation, right there in my mailbox.
It was an invitation to a party at, let’s call it, Walnut Street House, sponsored by the Black Students Association. The House, which was a restored Victorian home turned into a small dorm, was kind of like an International House, except it was inhabited by upper class African-American female students, mostly. But this invitation was for a dance party in the common room there. Cool. And it said to dress up!!! Yay! Now, I may not have been a drinker back then, but I did love to dance. And a chance to go somewhere in something other than a turtleneck, sweater and duck boots was enticing. My musical tastes were classical by day and classic R&B by night, and in a campus full of beer drinking rockers who didn’t dance – unless you count the drunken jumping up and down thing — this sounded like fun. Maybe I would go, I thought. Maybe I would go.
But the dance was —- yikes! — on a Saturday night. How would I be able to explain this to my boyfriend? I might miss his call! And I’d been complaining to him about how everything at the school was all about the drinking and the Frat parties and we were acting so superior to it all, blah, blah, blah. He never liked me going to any kind of parties. In fact, in high school he forbade me to go to parties. How could I just tell him I’d found somewhere to go? But I was so lonely. I needed to meet other people. My initial attempts at going out with the girls on my hall hadn’t been fun. Really, I just hadn’t found my niche yet and it was taking too damn long. I’d started skipping meals to avoid the cafeteria and studying more than probably necessary (I made the Dean’s list, though, . . . but I digress) . I was bored, I was starting to need more. My two roommates were okay, my Hall was okay, but I hadn’t made any good friends and spent too much time alone. Everyone else seemed to be having fun, and my College Self, in a new place, and separated from the boyfriend for the first time, thought life was passing me by.
I decided I would go to the party. Alone, of course. Going places alone is a skill I developed too early. Women are supposed to travel in packs, right? I hadn’t gotten that memo. But after all, I was invited, by name, so I could go — alone. And I was going to go, damnit.
There was only one other black freshman woman in my whole dorm (out of a couple of hundred girls). She was probably invited also, but she was not in my half of the dorm and we had never spoken. Even when I had passed her in the courtyard and said hello she had averted her eyes. No judgment, but clearly I would be walking “down hill” alone. I could only hope that once I got there it would be okay. It was a big chance.
My bigger concern, though, was my boyfriend. How to deal with my boyfriend? The one who didn’t drink, didn’t dance, didn’t go away to college, didn’t want me to do . . . any of those things. Hmm.
On the Friday night call I explained to him that I thought I’d go out Saturday, and asked if could he call me later than 11:00. (I know, not the best move on my part. But I felt I needed to reassure him of my faithfulness and commitment to misery.) He planned to call me at midnight. I’m not gonna lie, this was okay with me, it gave me an out in case the party was horrible or if I felt stupid going alone. And, I figured, the party started at ten — two hours would be enough, right?
Well, Saturday night came. I put on a skirt and sweater and nice shoes. Told my roommates I had somewhere to go — ha! I took my “Walk of Shame” “down hill” to the party alone, passing people walking “up hill” to the frat houses. They were dressed for drinking; I was dressed for dancing. I arrived “down hill” almost exactly at 10 o’clock. Now I ask you, have you ever known a college party to start when it’s supposed to? Is it ever cool to show up promptly when a party starts? No, no, no. Yet there I was, right on time. I walked in and the lights were off — in party mode, somebody was DJ-ing — and yay, it was R&B and Funk, something to dance to. . . but no one was there!
I wandered around in the foyer for a bit, occupied myself by pretending to read bulletin boards, contemplated leaving. Finally, people started to trickle in. Some dude came out from the back, saw me and left. I saw the “I can’t believe she showed up” look. Ha! But now I couldn’t leave, I’d been seen. Truly, I didn’t care. I was just happy to be out of my room, and somewhere that didn’t smell of cheap beer.
Once the party actually got started I got lots of attention and dances. And bonus, everybody was nice! I met some other freshmen and some upper classmen. People were wondering why they hadn’t met me before. Well, I was an “up hill” girl and these students, at least the girls, lived “down hill.” I had no idea. That night I planted the seeds of some friendships that last to this day. It was college, so I’m sure some of the people there were drinking, but the drinking was not the focus of the party, it was the music. I was actually having fun.
But, in horror . . . I looked at the clock, it was almost midnight!!!!
Crap! I wasn’t in any deep conversation with anyone, I was just starting to meet people. In short, I really had no one to say goodbye to. It’s not like there was a formal host or hostess.
So I just, well — left. As mysteriously as I’d arrived, I left—-
. . . at midnight.
Alone, I ran up the hill in heels to try to get back to my room in time for my scheduled Saturday night phone call from my boyfriend.
I’d missed it. But c’mon, folks, of course he called back.
It didn’t all change in one night. I remained separated and aloof and miserable for a while. But by my sophomore year of college, I’d found people with common interests, and made friends with some of the people I’d met at that dance party, one of whom became my sophomore roommate and a very good friend. I’d changed my major to my love — music, and met more of my creative brethren there. I learned to drink (hard liquor, not beer) and made my own stories in that regard. Still, I never became a Frat party regular, except for Reggae night. Reggae nights were fun, because of the dancing. I think the last time I went to a regular Frat party some dude pissed on the floor right in front of me, and I was done. He’s probably a Congressman now . . . but I digress . . . again.
Much later, one of guys I’d met at that first dance party told me that that was the night the boys started calling me . . . Cinderella.
Well, I had been the mysterious (and yeah, I’ll say it — pretty) girl who showed up alone at a party, danced her behind off, and ran out at midnight without saying goodbye.
There was no Prince Charming or anything like that. But there were two evil step sisters — my roommates. Alright, so they weren’t actually evil but since they were having an easier time making friends and fitting in while I sat in my room and watched — well, in my fairy tale that qualifies as evil.
What about a wicked step mother? Well, my boyfriend, of course. He seemed intent on keeping me in my place, in my own little corner in my own little chair— meaning, in my dorm room on the phone with him — on the weekend.
As an added postscript, shortly after the party a couple of the guys came knocking on my door to say hello. They weren’t looking to fit a lost glass slipper, but they were coming to find me . . . heh heh heh.
However, there was most certainly no Fairy Godmother. Still waiting for her ass to show up. Humph.
Just Me With . . . a Cinderella Story, well kind of . . .
I was a couple of weeks shy of eighteen, we’d been dating for two years. He had recently become my first, I was not his. I loved him. He loved me. One of the things I loved about being with him was the fact that I could be myself . I didn’t have to prove anything or act a certain way. I didn’t have to try to fit in or be a certain type of girl. He gave me something– not school related — to do. In hindsight, what he provided me was a way to escape those awkward teen years of discovering myself, making choices and mistakes, finding my own way, being proud of who I was and who I wasn’t, making new friends, and learning how to be social. He had already made some decisions about life, had some bad experiences and had strong opinions about almost everything. He was an old soul. I was not. It ate me up.
He was completely against drinking (which is not a bad thing for someone underage, but he would not even go to parties where others might be drinking, even if they were hiding it.) I respected him for that. I supported him in that. He had had a rough upbringing. His mother had a bad reputation, his brother was the local drug dealer, other family members, including siblings and his mother’s boyfriends had addictions, and teen pregnancies were the norm in his family. So having been brought up in the underbelly of drug and alcohol addiction, he swore never the touch the stuff and forbade me to get near it. In his family, he was the one good child. He wanted to stay that way. He was painfully shy unless involved in a sport, so he wasn’t one for hanging out. He didn’t want to travel because he didn’t see the need, and was uncomfortable out of our town. He hated the beach, sand; he hated crowds. He was also very possessive and jealous, so he kept me close and would become angry if he felt threatened.
But he was very cute, tall, slim with haunting light eyes. Teachers loved him, though he was not academically oriented or talented. I think, like me, they saw a polite guy who, despite his family, seemed to be a good kid. He was charming that way. People wanted to help him. People wanted to forgive any shortcomings. He had a smile that could and did charm everyone — that is, when he did smile. Most of the time, unless people were looking, he appeared sullen, angry. Some folks were a little scared of him. (Years later a friend described him like this: He’s the kind of guy where when he walks into a room, the temperature drops ten degrees.)
Me? Well, I was an achiever, academically, musically and athletically, but socially I had struggled, been a victim of past bullying. I was a book smart girl from a good (if not wealthy) family; my parents were teachers. My siblings were in college, they had gotten away from our suffocating suburb. I was lonely. I wanted to have fun but I was basically the stereotypical “good girl” from a stable family. I would never want to do anything that would embarrass my family, and my girlfriends weren’t drinkers or party girls either. Still, we liked to go to parties and dances and just have some sober fun. Before I started dating him, I had had only one short relationship with a boy. Nothing to speak of. No broken hearts. I don’t think we ever even went anywhere together. My hymen was still intact.
I did not have a normal or healthy introduction to dating. And, at my tender teen age, I thought I’d never have a real boyfriend. At the time, I truly thought he was my only and best chance at having any attention from a boy. He was what I needed.
Miraculously, once I started dating him, the bullying stopped as well as the false rumors about me. (Somehow, I had gained the reputation of being a slut according to popular, misinformed opinion, even though I was a virgin.) But with him, I had support. His family loved me. He loved me.
I see now I was co-dependent. But then? I was in love.
I had nothing to compare him to. My girlfriends weren’t dating, they didn’t know any better than me. After having been treated so badly by other kids, I thought this was right, and in a way, it did save me. (The reasons for the bullying have to do with racial/socio-economic differences, that are just too much to get into now.) I never told my parents about how I had been treated at school. I should have.
He and I were inseparable. I was so happy to have a boyfriend. But we rarely went anywhere with other people. Usually we went to movies or hung out at his or my house. He met me at my locker every morning. We met between classes. (We never had classes together, I was in the college prep courses, he was not). We were such a cute, dysfunctional couple. Both tall, and we even looked a bit alike.
One night, there was a Friday night basketball game, as usual. He was a star player, I was a cheerleader. (I know, gag me). We never went to the parties afterward, though, if there were any. We were an antisocial couple. But this night, for some reason, he decided he wanted to go to a party. I don’t know why. I never knew why. He usually was against such behavior. He told me to go home, I wasn’t allowed to go. Obediently, I went home. I didn’t see him for the rest of the weekend, which sometimes happened since neither one of us had a car, and in addition to my studies I had a part-time job.
The following Monday, he did not come to my locker. When I found him, he seemed distant. He wouldn’t make eye contact. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was different. Paranoid, and suddenly needing reassurance, I asked him,
“Don’t you love me anymore?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. (My very being shook to the core, I felt as though I died a bit. My knees buckled.)
In another cruel twist of fact, it was Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrated as our anniversary.
I was still reeling from his answer when he added that — he wanted to see other people!!!!!!!
Then he looked me in the eyes to tell me, “I don’t want you to, though.”
“Okay,” I said. (I know, I know. In my head the voices still scream Nooooooo!!!!!! But I was already under his thumb, I didn’t know how to act differently. I was completely caught off guard, he had changed all the rules without any warning. I was still freaked out because he went to a party. And now this? I had given myself to him in every way possible, and now, it wasn’t enough, or it didn’t matter, or — I didn’t know what was happening!!!!!)
I was heartbroken, devastated, confused. For about two weeks, I continued to allow him to meet me at my locker, walk me in the halls, kiss me hello and goodbye. I was still his girlfriend. But there were more goodbyes than hellos, and I saw him flirting with other girls; he didn’t hide it. He had a swagger about him. I felt beaten.
Since we’d been dating for two years, we were quite an item. We were the golden couple. But kids talked. They knew there had been a change yet we had not broken up. Through the high school rumor mill I found out later that during the party he attended a girl I knew had flirted with him. Well, she grabbed his crotch, is what I heard. That must have been enough to turn the tide, to make him take the next step after control and isolation, to further humiliate me, his girlfriend of two years — but still keep me at his beck and call. Yet he acted as though this was completely normal. And I allowed it. (It was the beginning of a hurtful and unhealthy pattern of accommodation I have struggled with ever since.)
Later, a friend of his and fellow basketball player who was in one of my classes said to me,
“I don’t know how you put up with it.”
(I think I visibly shuddered. I was trying to operate under the illogical belief that no one knew what was really going on.)
The nice boy continued, “I mean, given his family and all it’s amazing he’s turned out as good as he has, but still . . . he shouldn’t be doing this to you.”
Hearing that from another boy, a boy who was a childhood friend of his but who didn’t know me that well, got to me. Plus, I did some thinking. I had more time on my hands, after all. Throughout this whole thing I kept coming back to the fact that I loved him. I kept telling myself, “But I love him.” But then I thought, is being in love supposed to feel like this? Because this doesn’t feel good. This isn’t fun. Love shouldn’t feel like this.
The next day I was not at my locker when he went to meet me.
He had to find me. When he did, I just said I wasn’t going to do this anymore.
When an abused woman hits back, it’s useless unless she kills or runs. Hitting back and standing there just sets her up for another beat down. Mine was coming.
I cannot remember what he said exactly, or what he did, he must have told me he loved me. I know he demanded to know why I wasn’t as my designated place. But I’m not sure. I think I may have blocked it out, because it was so contrary to my sense of self-preservation. I’ve beat myself up for years because of it.
Bottom line: He got me back.
He said he wasn’t going to see other girls. We were monogamous again. (Well, he was monogamous again, I had never been free.) I didn’t date anyone else in high school. He was still my boyfriend when I went to college. Years later, I married him.
Months ago, our divorce became final. He has since remarried.
I heard later that the girl who had felt him up at the party told him she couldn’t actually date him because her family would not accept her dating a black boy. Whatever. His coming back to me had nothing to do with me — except that he wanted to keep me — unto him, under him.
When I had started to pull away, he pulled me back — and he was stronger.
I had traded one kind of bullying for another, really.
But something broke inside me then, not because of how he treated me, but because I allowed it . . . and I think . . . just now, I’m trying to get it fixed.
Just Me With . . . a love story?
P.S. Why all the Twilight pics? I have a hard time with the series because of my romantic history. A high school girl who does not fit in should have a chance to experience life outside of high school before changing her DNA for a boy. Bella is so sad and tortured and Edward makes her feel better, but I want her to go to college, get a job, move to a place where she chooses, and have fun, make friends, have boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, without all the danger and without having to forsake her belief system, family, and biological options before she’s had a chance to even develop them.
It’s okay not to have a boyfriend in high school. It really is. And it’s okay to break up with your first love.
For a story on what it was like to still have my boyfriend when I went away to college, see The Night I Became Cinderella.
And for how I feel about him now? I Don’t Love Him.
Okay, it’s been years now since he moved out. It’s a different bed. Hell, it’s a different house. And he’s married now, for goodness sake.
So why am I still sleeping on my side of the bed?
It’s amazing how old movies take on such different meanings after that stuff happens to you!
Like the scene in When Harry Met Sally when they discuss their post break up sleeping habits. It went right over my head for years – when I was married. Until my unfortunate (or fortunate) events brought it to the forefront and made it exceedingly relevant.
Harry: Ok, fine. Do you still sleep on the same side of the bed?
Sally: I did for a while but now I’m pretty much using the whole bed.
Harry: God, that’s great. I feel weird when just my leg wanders over. I miss her.
I actually enjoy sleeping alone; I don’t miss sleeping with him. But unlike Sally, I don’t use the whole bed, either. What is it? There’s the practical considerations, namely that my phone and alarm clock are on one side. But really that would explain why I get up on that side not my entire sleeping geography.
My ambien is on that side too. Now I’m talking. Once ingested I tend to sleep in whatever position I was in when I took a sleep aid. I realized this fact when I woke up very sore two weeks ago, in the same position I lay my head down in.
But I don’t take a sleep aid every night.
So why stay on one side of the bed?
It’s like I’m saving a place for someone.
Am I waiting for Prince Charming?
Or am I still programmed to be part of a couple?
Or is it just a force of habit?
Like Harry, I was married a long time, longer than I’ve been separated or divorced. And though I’ve had visitors to my bed on occasion, I’ve never had anyone stay more than one night (and, honestly, those single nights were too damn long). Harry stayed on his side of the bed. Was it the marriage thing? Does my body still think it’s a marital bed?
Maybe being curled up on my side of the bed is just my way of snuggling — with myself.
I remember when just days after my then husband moved out one of my daughters asked me,
“Who’s going to sleep with you now?”
Damn, still waiting for an answer to that.
In the meantime, here is a product I accidentally found online. I swear I wasn’t looking for this.
The Companion Pillow.
This is the pillow that holds you when your partner cannot. Shaped like a man’s torso, the pillow has a flexible arm that wraps around you as you lie on its burly, comforting chest. Made from fiber-fill, the pillow contours to your body and provides a soft sleeping surface that’s both physically and emotionally supportive. The pillow is dressed in a soft polyester button-down dress shirt, and unlike the real thing, the pillow won’t keep you awake with incessant snoring. Cover is removable and machine-washable. 24″ L x 17″ W x 7″ H. (2 lbs.)
Just Me With . . . no one on his side of the bed.
Update: The Companion Pillow is apparently no longer available at Hammacher. If you are interested, there are other retailers offering the same or similar products.
If you are interested. I, however, am not.
See posts about visitors to the other side of the bed:
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.”