Dating: An Unexpectedly Positive Experience

So, it’s true. I did get called a “stuck-up punk bitch”. And a manhater. But, that was while messaging online. On the other, and much more substantial side of the coin, the four in-person meetups I have had, with four different men, have all been positive in different ways.

The first man wrote one of the kindest dating rejection letters I’ve ever received, in which he said I was awesome and listed out a couple of reasons why (easy to talk to, doing something inspiring and admirable with my divorce/keeping the family together/new partnership). He said he wasn’t the guy for me, and wished me best of luck in my search. It was a genuine note, and I really appreciated it.

The second man and I spent three hours talking at a restaurant, followed by an hour and a half of conversation later on. When he started texting me multiple times a day following that date, and then queried me about my lack of response (in one day), I told him that I’d meant what I said about not wanting to jump into a relationship, and that daily messaging like that felt too much like I was treating him like a boyfriend. He wrote an appreciative text back that started, “Wow, you’re direct. I like and respect that.” He understood and has respected my boundary, and still was willing to extend himself emotionally by telling me that he was really looking forward to our second date. I don’t know if I’ll wind up with romantic interest in him or not (way too early to tell), but so far he’s definitely someone I want to get to know better.

The third man was interesting, direct, very affectionate in nature, very interested in me. I don’t think he’s the guy for me (not a very involved parent, super sure that men and women are fundamentally different in wiring and makeup, a frequent interrupter, among other things). But he was nonetheless respectful, and asked if he could kiss me (thank god, because I HAVE to have that sort of commitment to consent, or I run the other way – too much really negative history) which gave me a chance both to say no and to thank him for asking.

The fourth man was sweet, shy, funny, shared some significant personal history with me, and is an admirable and very involved father. I am not, at least on first blush, attracted to him physically. So I replied to his post-date message telling him that I would like to be friends (which I would; he is someone I want to get to know better). In reply, he sent me acceptance, and a most wonderful compliment it took courage for him to be vulnerable enough to offer, in which he told me “you have a heart-melting smile, so someone that lights your fire should be along soon I’d think”. I was so moved.

This is all a new experience for me. Not adhering that closely to the beauty standard, and as well being insecure and sometimes downright self-hating, I have not been a person who has attracted the interest and attention and desire of multiple men at once. Doing so now feels like a challenge to my self-identity, in fact. But it is also revelatory in various ways. I weigh more than I ever have in my life. But I am as comfortable, if not more so, with my body than I ever have been in my life. I am carrying myself differently. I am inhabiting my body differently. I am more centered, more sure of myself. I am not going on dates worrying about how I look. I am not worrying about whether the guy in question will be attracted to me or like me. I am more open to possibility at the same time that I am not feeling the need for any particular outcome.

And I am meeting men who are willing to share their hearts and minds with me, who have all been kind in different ways, and who have all had interesting stories to tell, and who have been interested in mine. It’s a diverse bunch of people, too, in terms of race, background, profession, etc.

I did some internet dating in 1999, and again in 2005. This is by far the best experience of the lot overall. I think it has partly to do with age: by the time we’re pushing 50, many of us are more relaxed, more experienced, and more open. And it has to do with where I am and how I’m expressing myself.

I’m really grateful.

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Appearance & aging: self-hatred & self-love

When my first baby was born I was 40 years old. I had increasing numbers of grey hairs appearing at my temples, scattered amongst the brown. I didn’t want to be mistaken for my kid’s grandmother, and I decided to get my hair dyed. I have liked my hair color for a long time, and indeed, liked my hair for a long time. That’s a significant thing, given that for a long time I actively hated my body and my appearance.

I have thought about the reduction for a long time. Not really for medical reasons:  yes; I have strain on my back, but honestly, I’d love to be able to wear clothes that fit my upper body, including button-down shirts. And the focus below the neck is real, and I experienced it a lot when I was younger.

A C-section and twin pregnancy later, my body is not the same shape it was before. It never will be. For a couple of years after the twins’ birth, sunk in the pit of self-directed fat hatred, I considered having surgery to correct nature’s deficiencies. In that time I realized that I actually believed that if I were thinner I’d be a better person.

But I have daughters. And have read a number of compelling pieces about how my self-image will impact theirs. And so, (m)other-love has given me a route to a firmer foundation of self-love. Now I’m looking at better bras, learning to look at myself in the mirror and consider my shape with loving and compassionate eyes, and tell myself I’m beautiful so that I can fight the internalized self-hatred that insidiously blossomed in elementary school with the taunts of other kids.

I’m going to keep dying my hair for while, because I like the color. I want to be real about my choices, to be honest with myself. But I reject purity-founded guilt about them.

Chamber music party, critique, inspirational friends, Chanukah, family

Today I had a critique meeting. My friends pointed out a big problem, which was that I was having my protagonist do something that made her untrustworthy and unlikeable. What was amazing to me was that I hadn’t noticed it until they talked about it. This is one reason why having a critique group is so invaluable. Changing her actions actually makes everything work better, too; it allows her to experience secret-keeping in a particular way, to retain her integrity, and creates a foil in the person of another character in the book which will allow for some interesting character development.

After that I had a chamber music x-mas party to attend. The music was fun, the people are wonderful, and I’m really glad I went.

However, I didn’t just fall off the Whole30 wagon at the party; I jumped off. I tried to enjoy the experience, knowing what I was doing, but I have to say that all that sugar & grains & gluten made me feel sick. Ugh. We’re going to re-do the Whole30 month in January (my friend D’s plan to use that month was always probably better than our effort to stick to it during the holiday month). Nonetheless, I’ve gotten a lot out of the 24.5 days I managed to achieve sugar-free. It has shown me how far I’d gotten away from it, not just in infrequent occurrences, but as a regular thing. And I know I can do this: I’ve done it before.

One of the co-hosts, my friend F, is going to be 87 in February. I hope to be playing cello and vivaciously living life as well as she is when I am her age! I hope to be her age, for that matter. She says 87 doesn’t bother her, but the fact that 90 is only three years away gives her pause. She is an inspiration, with an unfailingly positive attitude and such love for music and people and life. She is always warm and welcoming, glad to see everyone who comes, and always has a kind word. A lovely soul.

I had a good talk with my friend R in between the party and running to the store for some dinner items. He’s had good news, in the form of employment and also moving along toward the next step in his process in the justice system. I was glad to hear it. We shared some laughs about the grammatical errors on the signs in prison, and about the bureaucratic nature of it, with the expected time delays and random ridiculousnesses.

Then, when I got home with dinner Ted had cleared off the dining room table, and it was so great to see it with a fresh table cloth and the lovely center piece one of my students gave me for a present at her last lesson. Our friends A and P came over, and we had a great visit with them. Joanna climbed up into P’s lap and wanted her to read to her, all snuggled in. This makes me so happy to see. A had Hazel and Jasmine in his lap for a while, too.

After dinner, which was such a pleasure to eat at the dining room table, all together, we lit the menorah and watched the candles while Hazel soaked her arm.

The kids went to bed very late, but there was no crying. They all got happily in bed, Ted turned the lights out, and I sang “Frere Jacques” our traditional three times (French, English, French). I bashed into the dresser as we left, but that didn’t disturb them.

Now I’m writing the blog, listening to the first Brahms sextet, which I love so much, and thinking of how lovely it will be to lie down in my own bed in a bit.

And I have forgiven myself for the leap off the wagon. It helps that I know I’ll do a better job in January. Life is so much better without shame and self-hatred. Yes, that is my aphorism for the day. 🙂

Peace and Joy, all!

zoo, visiting friends, vacation take-aways

Today was gloriously beautiful. We went to the zoo in the morning to meet up with friends, and I actually got a sunburn which is keeping me toasty at the moment. I have clearly spent way too many years in the Pacific Northwest!

We went to the children’s zoo, and Hazel was delighted to pet bunnies and guinea pigs and goats, to see lots of other critters, and to run around with my friends’ kids. I worked at the zoo one summer when I was in high school. It is disconcerting to recognize almost nothing about the layout. It contributes to my feeling that I am both ancient and in possession of only a fraction of my marbles and memories. My friend (who has lived here for the intervening years) did reassure me that the layout has changed quite a bit since the 80’s. I appreciated her kindness. It’s fairly surreal to return to scenes of my former life and feel at sea in that way.

My friends’ kids being somewhat older than ours, it’s been a number of years since they’ve moved through a zoo at toddler speed. We didn’t see a ton of animals, but of course that didn’t matter. It is a pleasure to watch the twins’ unbridled delight at things like stairs, play brooms, goats, and guinea pigs. And such a pleasure to talk and be with friends I’ve known for so long.

Unfortunately, Ted had an episode of food poisoning (how, we have no idea), and was down for the count for a good part of the afternoon. Since my mom is also sick, I dashed over to see another friend for a little bit, and then came home to feed kidlets. And thus is all the socializing for this week’s visit completed. A week doesn’t seem like a long time when you have friends and family to see. Hazel would have liked to spend a week with each set of friends, I think. It occurred to me this evening that it’s been a lot of transitions for her, visiting with five different sets of friends. I’m glad we’ll have a day at home to readjust before it’s back to the usual round of work, school, and community there. It’s a lot to process.

Tonight Ted and I watched the final episode of the fourth “Downton Abbey” season. We’ve enjoyed watching them together, and I think it might have provided us with the impetus to get back to watching shows together, to rejigger the chores/entertainment balance so that we can spend some non-dishes, non-cat-tasks, non-household-running time in each other’s company.

Yesterday I had a massage. My mom generously paid for me to go see her massage therapist, who worked on the various clenched and rigid places in my body. We also had a good conversation. It reminded me that there are many good people in the world, people of integrity and heart. It was a very welcome couple of hours.

Also yesterday we stopped by a neighbor’s house during our evening walk with the kids. These neighbors were friends whose house my siblings and I were in and out of all the time, growing up. They’ve known me since I was Hazel’s age, and so it is a particular pleasure to introduce them to my children. They’ve recently gotten a cat who’s quite young and quite playful. Between the kitty and the various toys they still have around for grandchildren, there was plenty to keep the small ones occupied while we caught up on news from their family and ours.

This has been a very good visit. I will return home tomorrow with some different perspectives to consider, a renewed commitment to learning and growing as a parent, and a reaffirmed connection to my community here. I am very glad we came.

Going to the zoo, birthday dinner

Today we went to the zoo with friends. There are lion cubs viewable right now, but there was a line, and with two hungry preschoolers and two babies, standing in a line to see them wasn’t something we contemplated for even a minute. Today was the sort of day we buzzed by the animals, stopping only for quick peeks and then moving on when either whining or crying started up. It amuses me to imagine what I’d think of such considerations if I were having them about other adults with whom I regularly spend time: “Well, I’d love to see the lion cubs, but Dude is really hungry, and I just don’t want to deal with it if he starts crying while we’re in line,” or, “It’d be so neat watch the baby lions with their mommy, but Dudette is tired, and I need to keep her moving. If we stop, I think it’s pretty likely she’ll throw a fit.”

So, we eyed one elephant, glimpsed two giraffes, and paused to peek at two snoozing gorillas. Then we had lunch. Afterwards, we went into the excellent play area, where Hazel and her friend worked off some energy running around like crazy, climbing things, making new friends, and generally having a great time. The twins looked around, and I got a chance to talk to my friend. A very good visit. And next time we might see more of the animals. That is the beauty of having a membership. You don’t have to sweat it when you’ll just be coming back next week.

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Tonight we went out with friends to celebrate his 45th birthday. We had a lovely time. We don’t get much adult-only time these days, and it was nice to have a relaxed meal and great conversation in that setting. We talked about aging, the life cycle, quality of life, what we want moving forward in our lives as well as celebrating the many wonderful things that are already there. I am so grateful for my friendships and chosen family.

After dinner they came over for a bit to say hi to Hazel. She was so excited to see them. And our nanny said the evening had gone really well. The babies are feeling so much better. All in all, a good day.

I think I’m a grown-up now

We did our usual Tuesday night dinner together followed by separate individual time at the coffee shop, where I met with my writing friends and Ted read. When we were sitting in our booth for dinner, I saw a neighbor wander in. That wasn’t so odd, because we were at a restaurant close to our house. When the second neighbor came in, I started to wonder, and when the third one arrived I waved. She came over. It turned out that there was a fundraiser for our local elementary school happening that night. Right now that seems so far away, but before too terribly long Hazel will be going to school. There will be PTA meetings, fundraisers, homework (though it boggles my mind that elementary school kids have homework these days, that sometimes takes an hour or two to complete), school projects, field trips, new and changing friend groups, and increased peer influence.

When I started teaching out here I was about 30 years old. I was sometimes closer in age to my students than to their parents, and I definitely felt myself to be in a different category. Those parents were adults. My students were kids (except for the adult students, of course). I was not a kid, but definitely not an adult in the same sense. Having babies has changed that. It has put me firmly on the other side of the dividing line between kid and adult. Hazel’s almost four years old, so my sense of wonder at that transition isn’t so present for me any more, but sometimes new occurrences I experience living life as my kids’ mother, it comes up again afresh. I picture walking into the classroom for my first parent-teacher conference at Hazel’s grade school, and I am astonished to realize that I will be that person, I will be the mommy, I will be the one going and having mysterious conversations with the teacher. I am not the kid any more. I have not felt like the kid, have not had that young person identity for a while now. That makes me think that I need to make sure that I’m doing activities once in a while that help me get in touch with my younger self. Partly, it will make me a better writer. If I’m writing fiction for children, I have to be able to inhabit that mindset. Partly, it will help me relate to my kids and their struggles and triumphs better. And partly, it will keep me open to some of life’s pleasures I don’t want to forget.

There’s nothing on the calendar for tomorrow morning, and I have childcare. Maybe as well as practicing and nursing, I’ll go kick a ball around at the park, or do some painting of pottery, or put on some boots and see if I can find some puddles somewhere.