It’s not that I don’t care. I don’t care what you think.

It’s not that I don’t care. I don’t care what you think.

Deep in the heart of a recent NPR piece there is a link to an article in the Journal of Women & Aging, “Positives and Negatives of Online Dating According to Women 50+” Among the positives: access to others, control, and friendship. The positives are what one would expect: a larger pool, the ability to control the level and means of contactAmong the negatives: deception and lying, lack of success, and unwanted sexual messages.

“Others described lack of responses to e-mails, instant messages, phone calls, and planned in-person meetings as reasons they consider themselves unsuccessful or “unlucky” in online dating. One participant highlighted her feelings of disappointment with online dating when she stated, “I always think I was going to meet a lot of nice guys, but so far, I haven’t met anybody worth dating again” (White, 50). These sentiments were commonly reported.

Women reported a lack of success across a variety of different dating sites, including pay sites (e.g., eHarmony, Match), sites targeted toward older adults (e.g., Ourtime), and free sites (e.g., PlentyofFish). Some women reported cancelling online dating accounts because “It just wasn’t working” (White, 58). Closing accounts due to lack of success was more commonly reported for dating sites that charge money. This was clearly summarized by one participant when she stated, “I wasn’t getting anything from it, and I decided, I’m not going to keep paying for something that I’m not really meeting people” (White, 56)

This is the same stuff I encountered when I was single in my late 20s and online dating was in its infancy. I had three responses and one date in the two years I was online. Mostly, my profile was ignored completely. This is why I can’t bring myself to go online again. It’s one thing to be ignored in the real world. I’d rather that not happen in the virtual world again. How can I be so sure? Because it’s already happening. If you substitute work for college/grad school, my social life is nearly identical to what it was. Most of my friends are pair-bonded, the ones who aren’t are single women, and my guy friends in relationships complain to me about their partners. Were my life a romantic comedy, I wouldn’t even be the protagonist. I’d be the best friend.

I think my social circle was wider when I was married. While I kept the vast majority of our friends, they are married and most with children. When you are married, most of your friends are married, and their friends are married. When you have children, certain social networks are built in. Past a certain age, your friends don’t have any single friends, churches and synagogues no longer have single men your age (the remaining single men are looking at much younger women), you’re too old for “young friends” groups associated with cultural institutions, and should you venture out to a bar/club prepare to be ignored for your younger friends.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 22% of adults between 25-34, 21% of adults between 35-44, 13% of adults between 45-54, and 12% of adults between 55-64 had used an online dating site or app. There aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. The same fish are swimming in multiple ponds.

This is why I’m giving up. I just don’t see a point. I don’t care. I don’t need statistics to tell me what I already know. I see it all the time. I had a couple dates with a guy at the end of 2016. As time went on his text messages got shorter, his responses went to just a couple of words. He wanted to drop me and move on with nary a word. I wouldn’t play ball. On the phone he was hostile and churlish. I’ve seen him in town a few times since then, always in the company of a much younger woman. My ex’s girlfriend is around seven years younger than he. I have a friend whose wife at least 11 years his junior. At 48, I’m done. That bird, I tell people, has flown.

I can’t even imagine dating now. In three years, I’ve established a routine. I work. I go to the gym. I pay bills. I go out with friends-married couples or single women. Once a year I go on a trip. Having zero illusions about my looks, packing for a trip is remarkably simple now. Then there is this. The brain tumour has doubled in size in the past year and I have started another course of drug therapy with a different drug which also makes me nauseous. The list of things I can eat fits on a post-it note. That list is shrinking. I have to check every restaurant menu in advance. I’m going out for breakfast. Do I go with the high-fiber pancakes made with milk or the vegan pancakes made with AP flour. Both will likely contain enough sugar to make me nauseous. Try explaining this to anyone. It’s not that I want to announce to the world, I’m on drug therapy and everything makes me sick. Drug therapy makes it sound like I’m in rehab, not that I’m on a drug to shrink a tumour in my brain.

Meat, apart from tuna, makes me sick. I can’t have any dairy. Anything more than bare minimum sugar and I am nauseous. Chocolate, even dark chocolate, is iffy. I can tolerate tempeh, tofu, jackfruit, beans, nuts, whole grains, and most vegetables. Popcorn is fine, so long as I don’t use butter. I drizzle it with just enough oil or vegan butter to make the nutritional yeast stick; nutritional yeast instead of freshly grated parmagiano. The less sweet the fruit the less likely it is to make me nauseous. Raspberries and green apples are lifesavers right now as are dried sour cherries, and apricots. Prunes are too sweet and make me nauseous. It’s a game I’d rather not play, but here I am. One thing about living in Philadelphia is that it’s a vegan haven. Even my favourite dive bar has vegan sour cream for their potato pierogi (they’re vegan too); not that I can eat potatoes. All that being said, I can’t even imagine doing this on a date. First dates will quickly become lasts as the assumption will be, she has fucked up food issues, not, hi nice to meet you I’m on chemo and can’t eat anything. And since, barring the complete failure of this drug, I will be on it for 18 months to two years, I think it’s safe to say that ship has sailed.

As often as I say those things to myself, I still get the lump in my throat. I hoped I wouldn’t have to put that part of myself away for my own protection. Yet here I am telling myself over and over it’s best not to want, it’s best not to look, it’s best not to think. I am the sexless best friend in my own romantic comedy.


What It Is to Not Want

What It Is to Not Want

The other day, a friend of mine asked for my hand in marriage. The salami, smoked mozzarella, basil, and grape tomato stromboli was so good, she asked me to marry her. This is my second marriage proposal this quarter. The prior request came from my favourite dive bar via Twitter. I explained politely that if marriage had taught me anything it’s that I’m not the marrying kind, but that I was sure we could come to some kind of arrangement. I don’t miss being married, which is very different from missing being with someone. I miss being with someone. I’m so used to sleeping alone my cat sleeps in the middle of the bed. I have to wake up in order to turn over. I don’t know what I would do if I had a man over to spend the night on a regular basis. I’m smart, I’m sure I’d figure it out. I also don’t see it happening anytime soon, so I have time to create something akin to a disaster plan.

In a little less than a month it will be the second anniversary of the finalization of my divorce. The writ is still on my refrigerator, but I don’t look at it anymore. I just haven’t gotten around to putting it away. I have asked people not to tell me what he is up to, but it happens anyway. One friend said the car is still on the road-barely. My dentist saw him, his girlfriend, and the kids at the Art Museum. Then there are other things I just intuit. When you are with someone for 14 years, you just know.

I can barely remember his face. I don’t remember his voice at all. I know he’s still on Facebook but I have blocked him. I’ve blocked members of his family as well. I know he has commented on articles friends have posted. I know he made a comment on an article about how women are fed up with doing the lion’s share of the emotional labour; it may have been this article from Harper’s Bazaar. His comment had something to do with dishes. I know this because our mutual friend’s response said the article had nothing to do with how dishewashers were loaded but that women did the vast majority of the day-to-day work required to make a house run. She didn’t mention that many women, myself included, are doing this on top of a full-time job.

In the article the author tells her husband she wanted a housecleaning service for Mother’s Day; her freelance writing job and their three children keep her busy. She wanted to be relieved of the burden of one chore. She knew how time consuming it would be why is why she asked as a gift, giving her husband plenty of time. He dragged his feet, called a single service, threw up his hands, and said they were too expensive. Then he, “vowed to clean the bathroom himself.” I know this well. In ‘the vow’, he vows to take upon himself the most onerous task. My ex’s version of ‘the vow’ involved the dishwasher. In my experience, the promise made in the vow never lasts more than a month, then it’s back to business as usual.

I, too, asked for a housecleaning service. My ex didn’t even put forth the effort. He told me that if I wanted someone to come in and clean, I had to do the research and phone references.I asked because I needed help. I needed relief from one task. Like countless times before, he said no then he complained ceaselessly about the messy house. I had to step around piles of laundry because he would not do them. I would take dishes down from the family room to the kitchen because he had not bothered to move them. I took out the garbage every week and shoveled after every snowfall. He would watch as I donned my snow gear and grabbed the shovel and say, I’ll do it or all you have to do is ask. When I asked, at first he would say, in a minute. Minutes would drag to hours which would drag into never. Then when I asked it was just no. The sad thing is, I shouldn’t have had to ask. And worse, I shouldn’t have had to explain to him that I shouldn’t have to ask.

I did the cleaning, all of the laundry, all of the grocery shopping, paid all of the bills and managed the household finances, scheduled medical appointment, dentist appointments, haircuts, regular car maintenance and repairs, packed his luggage for business trips, unpacked his luggage and did laundry. I made plane reservations, hotel reservations, and dinner reservations. I chose the health insurance plan. When I lost my job and he forgot to register for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, I made the arrangements and paid for COBRA coverage. I found all of our apartments in every town in which we lived. I found the house. I picked the paint and the light fixtures.  I was even responsible for finding daycare when we were trying to have a child. I found one but it’s services were never required.

When my requests for help were rebuffed and ignored, I did it myself. I did the work. I was too tired for sex. Too tired to fight also meant too tired to fuck. He never caught on. Whatever he said on Facebook, I knew he had not changed. He had learned nothing. Maybe he is more tolerant now that he has a child of his own, but I don’t know how long it will last. He gave me two years before he started complaining about how my work was having a negative effect on our marriage. In all that I never called him a nag. Women nag when their needs aren’t being met. And being called a nag negates our needs as invalid.

Now, of course, I manage my own household. I love my apartment but I feel little pride of place. It’s my mortgage, HOA fee, electric bill, vet bill, synagogue dues. I make my own medical, dental, hair, vet appointments. I do laundry. I go grocery shopping. I do all of the same things I did when I was married but I do them for myself. I maintain my life as best I can. Some things fall by the wayside. I can’t lie, there are weeks when I come home and I take out the foul-smelling garbage and the mountain of recycling and think no wonder my marriage failed. I can’t see marriage to another man being any different. I will never marry again. I don’t believe in marriage. As a woman, I think it’s a raw deal.


900 Days

900 Days

“I’ve locked my heart
I keep my feelings there
I have stocked my heart
Like an icy Frigidaire
For I need to care for no one
That’s why I’m through with love” –I’m Through With Love. (Kahn, Malneck, & Livingston)

It’s June. Two months since I was taken off the medication. Two months since the first house I bought sold. Six months into 2017. Three months since I found out the ex’s girlfriend was pregnant. Six months since my brain tumour diagnosis. Six months since my last date. Six months since my root canal. 30 months since I last had sex. I give up. I don’t care. I’m through. I’m finishing before I start. If anyone asks:

  • No, not seeing anyone.
  • No, I’m not online. When I was I had one date in two years. Since the divorce I’ve had one date in two years.    Odds are the same.
  • Lonely? Sometimes.
  • Don’t you miss sex? Even if I do, what difference does it make? I’m late to the party. I married late and I divorced late. 
  • But you’re still young. That may be, but I was just as alone when I was young.
  • But other women your age… Probably never had trouble attracting men.
  • I have a friend who’s in her 60s and… I have those friends too and they’re seeing men who are my age. They also never had trouble attracting men.
  • You can’t just give up. I have to. Otherwise, I will beat myself up as opposed to just shuffle along, alone.

I never learned how to flirt. For some reason, I think the banter found in screwball comedies is sexy. (Except Bringing Up Baby. Bringing Up Baby is stupid.) Banter is witty, sharp, smart. I’m pretty sure I am alone in this. In the old studio system, MGM, not knowing what to do with my lack of sex appeal, would have photographed me with a men’s swim team. Oh I’ve had male friends tell me that intelligence is sexy, but when pressed they all admit that it was something physical that attracted them to their partners. One admitted that it was his wife’s legs that first attracted his attention and her brains that kept it. With another it’s that she was tall. Still another liked her curves. Friends like you for your brains. Another one told me he couldn’t understand why I’m still single-you’re smart, you’re funny, you’re attractive, guys here must be weird. No, I’m a middle aged woman without a spray tan, curves, and barrel curls. My demographic is limited. At some point I will explain to him what it is to be me. Then again, why? I’m through explaining. My friend asked me, who talks to you in the street? Well, the homeless men of colour who sit on the stoop by the gym call me cinnamon. If that’s tYounger men who can actually keep up with the conversation say things like, it was nice talking to you or I appreciate the honesty, even when it’s honest to a fault. I’m guessing this is code for you’re cool. I don’t think I need to reiterate what it means to be the cool girl.

The nausea returned this week. It hit on Monday morning when I awoke and stayed through Tuesday afternoon. It hit again this morning and ebbs and flows. This corresponds with a seven-fold increase in my prolactin level. It’s back above normal. I have been off the medication for two months. I’m sure this is not unusual but I had hoped that it would stay normal for a little longer. Now my doctor is talking watchful waiting and we’re both hoping that I plateau. Otherwise, we will try an older ergot derivative that I was on when I had the first tumour-the drug that did nothing. I’m frightened of this prospect. This also confirms something that I have suspected since the diagnosis; conventional antidepressants did not work on my depression because my depression is caused my prolonged exposure to above-normal levels of prolactin. Maybe now my mother and sister will stop trying to prescribe herbal supplements and short courses of antidepressants.

Boxes on the Hillside. Lines in the Sand

Boxes on the Hillside. Lines in the Sand

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky.
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same. -Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes

“Pretty open” has apparently expressed an interest in meeting me but there is a snag. The person who approached me wanted to introduce us at “game night”.  Game night, as I understand it, is when you get a bunch of friends together to play board or card games. I can think of nothing more trying than playing board games. Except, perhaps, playing board games with people I barely know under the pretense that we are all geeks here so we must love board games. What’s more, I am being set up with one of the attendees. I’ve been going back and forth on which level of hell this is. When I told her I hated game night, she countered with Cards Against Humanity. Her husband is obsessed; her words not mine. I play Cards Against Humanity on occasion-with friends. I don’t play that game with strangers. I went back to my acquaintance and told her that I would rather meet him for lunch or coffee. Boring though this may be, meeting in public is infinitely safer for me on a number of levels. And while I am not one of those women who obsesses over her safety, I’m not an idiot.

I’m losing interest. When she introduced him she thought we’d hit it off because he’s in IT, he likes sci-fi, he likes Dr. Who, he likes good food and wine, and he’s generous and kind. Well, I like science fiction but it isn’t the only thing I read. I like Doctor Who but I haven’t watched the new incarnation much because, frankly, I don’t care for it very much. I’m very competitive and don’t like to lose. Most board games are dull. My preferred card games are poker and bridge, although I have to learn to play bridge over again. He likes good food and wine, to which I say who doesn’t. Of course he’s generous and kind. You wouldn’t be friends if he weren’t. I have people in my life whom I have known for years who wouldn’t dream of setting me up and yet a person I met eight months ago wants to set me up with someone? I should be flattered but it makes me very uncomfortable. It feels presumptuous. It feels weird.

I can only guess that in her mind I fulfilled the requirements for nerd and I must like nerds. I understand the need to find your own tribe. I mentioned once before how feminism and punk saved my life. When you’re young finding your people is essential to survival. Now that I am older I have family, not people. At my age, my tribe should be middle-aged women with grown children who might be out of the house. It’s like when a friend of mine told me we needed to mend fences and attend activities sponsored by my synagogue’s womens’ group.

-What do women talk about when they get together, I asked?
-Their kids, their grandkids, and their husbands, she said. She was very matter-of-fact.
-How can I participate in that conversation, I asked? I have none of those things.

She went on to say that if we all went, there would be women of all ages and backgrounds. No, I told her. We go where we will fit in, where we feel welcome. I have sat in silence many times as women around me discussed their children, grandchildren, schools, married life, toilet training, finding childcare. I learned early on to take a book to outings so I have something to read as I will have little or nothing to say. I can’t even discuss what’s on TV as I don’t have a television. I read, I watch movies, I draw, I exercise, I go to museums and galleries, I’m a street photographer, I visit friends, I listen to the radio, I cook and bake for fun. I know there are things on this list that I share with most other women but when women get together they talk about their children, their grandchildren, and their husbands. Some would argue that the impetus to find common conversation is on me to which I ask if you’ve ever killed a conversation? I have. Once conversation strays from what most people find familiar, it dies.

In order to be desirable we must comparmentalise ourselves, fit ourselves into ever-smaller, increasingly tidy packages fit for categorisation and consumption. To be a well-rounded person with varied interests, conflicting emotions, and viewpoints is messy. We value simplicity over complexity, purity over sulliedness, the explicit over the implicit or the subtle. Mystery has no place. We spend so much time and effort isolating ourselves we don’t want to do the hard work of actually connecting. If I declare myself to be femandrogynous, heterosexual, Sephardi Jewish, punk, over-educated, artist, elite athlete, then who is like me? I have drawn my lines in the sand but who is willing to cross? Who is willing to stay?

I am not saying we should not be who we are, that we should not declare who we are. But we should be the ones to define ourselves and declare our findings as we see fit, and we should be prepared to face the consequences of our declarations, or non-declarations. I know a bisexual woman who lives as a married, heterosexual woman because she does not want to be defined by her sexual preference, she says. She has told no one but me. That is her choice, but her reasons are more complex than her statement belies.  She belongs to a very conservative, heteronormative faith.  She does not want to be defined by her sexual preferences because to do so would make her a social outcast. I know many for whom the struggle to be who they truly are has been arduous and ongoing. Many times it is either because the language finally exists to describe who I am or the language has always existed but now has been codified.

As for myself, I have always been and always considered myself to be highly androgynous. When asked in a college class if I had ever thought about what I would be like were we the opposite sex (be nice, this was over 20 years ago and gender was binary, there was no intersectionality, and privilege applied to the affluent), I said that I couldn’t imagine myself being a different person because I am that person. It’s not that I couldn’t see myself outside of my female self, it’s that I still saw myself as being a rational, intelligent, passionate, compassionate man just like I saw myself as a rational, intelligent, passionate, compassionate woman. The only differences I saw were purely physical. I’d probably be taller. I’d have a penis and testicles instead of a vagina, uterus, and ovaries. The trappings would be different but the person would be the same. It is only now that androgyny is spoken of, but legally recognised, as a non-binary gender identity. There are femandrogynes-androgynes who feel more feminine than masculine. There are mascandrogynes-androgynes who feel more masculine than feminine. Versandrogynes/Neutrandrogynes who feel a mixture of both or none at all. That there is language beyond an aesthetic is all new to me.

If I have the outward trappings associated with androgyny and believe that I would be the same person regardless of whether I was born with one x chromosome or two, does that make me androgynous?  If I declare it, is it true? Is that enough? Does being cisgendered mean that you necessarily buy into everything that comes with what is ascribed to femininity and masculinity? Including gender roles? Are we still basing notions of gender on outdated norms? Are they outdated if they still exist and persist? When women are labeled as androgynous it is usually for aesthetic reasons. We tend to be thin, white, some would call us butch or soft butch. The default aesthetic is masculine. Dominant culture makes all sorts of assumptions about our sexual preferences, because what heterosexual man wants anything other than what is typically feminine. That it could be anything other than aesthetic is absurd. Unless, of course, these are all women who secretly wish to be men. I don’t.

Once in bed, the man I was seeing pulled me on top so I could “feel what it was like to be a man.” I stopped and said I don’t need to know. It was as though power was gendered, that a man’s place was on top, and perhaps it was to him. I am powerful whether I am on top or whether I am enveloping the man I want. I feel gorgeous in a dress or a skirt and heels and I feel sexy in a shirt and tie; they are different but not unrelated feelings. The dovetail nicely with my introverted/domme-huntress nature. (I use feminine pronouns.) Not that the introvert wears dresses and the huntress wears ties. It speaks more to the duality of my nature. It’s a duality that I find hard to reconcile sometimes. The introvert is not terribly interested in meeting IT professor. The domme-huntress is very interested in pursuing the neurobiologist whose late father was a rabbi. The introvert keeps the domme-huntress from texting the neurobiologist and asking him out to a movie. The domme-huntress gets the introvert out of her shell. To me there is nothing inherently masculine or feminine about any of this. I just is.


Passing Over

Passing Over

Oh, doctor please, oh, doctor please
I think you’ve made a mistake
I’m fine and I don’t need people
You don’t understand all my choices – Marianne Faithfull, “Vagabond Ways

After two months of constant nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, vivid dreams, and almost every other gastrointestinal and neurological side-effect there is, my doctor has taken me off Cabergoline. I took my last dose on April 1st. I am no longer dizzy nor am I having vivid dreams involving my ex-husband. I’m no longer continually nauseous, but I am still nauseous after eating certain foods: yeast breads, fruits that are high in sugar, red meat, most desserts, Chime’s Ginger Chews. Through it all, I still managed to drag my sorry ass to work every day, pay my bills, go to the gym, help a dear friend begin the decluttering process, and prepare the Passover meal for 13 people. My friend’s husband, also a dear friend, told me I was a gem and that my ex doesn’t know what he’s lost. I told him that what he may or may not have lost hasn’t occurred to him. He has what he wants now, or will soon enough.

My ex emailed me a little over a week ago asking what I wanted to do with my safe deposit box.  We haven’t spoken to each other in nearly a year. The email exchange was short, almost terse. I had forgotten about it as, while I still had the key, I had long ago removed the contents. I told him it was fine to close it and I would be more than happy to get the key to him in whatever way he liked. He asked me to mail the key to an address in Holland, PA. I did so, along with a stamp he bought that I found in my jewelry box, certified mail with a return receipt. I thought about including a note wishing them well but realised that I had nothing to say. Nothing. I thought about burning the return receipt but decided I will hold on to it for a little bit, in case he tries to say it never arrived. And with that, we no longer have anything to discuss. The last dandelion seed has been carried aloft. At some point, maybe my next free weekend day, I will take the divorce decree from the refrigerator and put it in my safe deposit box. Maybe I’ll replace those blinds with the balloon shades I have. Maybe I’ll finish painting the bathroom.

In the meantime, another Pesach has come and gone. This is the first one without my ex. While we have been apart for nearly two years, he attended my friends’ first-night Seder last year. Last year, as a single man on the prowl, he took it upon himself to spank me as he skunked around me to get to the garbage can, like I was a girlfriend. This year, I dished out the Fesenjan unmolested. Not that this Pesach was uneventful. While setting up, my friend told me about how his cousin’s widow had looked up an old college friend. It turns out he had never forgotten her and they were seeing each other. How nice for her, I said. Then he asked if I had any old college flames. No, I told him, I had no college flames, no high school sweethearts, no childhood loves. He’s asked me variants on this question before and the answer is always the same, no. I think he genuinely forgets this, but sometimes I wonder if he asks because he thinks the answer will be different. Then his spouse came down the stairs and told me the same story and asked the same questions. He was more persistent and finally I went down into the kitchen and cried.

I pulled myself together just in time for my sister to arrive. Who proceeded to tell me that, once again, I was fixating on the one thing I didn’t have and to stop.  She cradled my face in her hands and told me I was a pretty girl and I would be so much prettier if I grew out my hair, even a little bit. With my sister, I am the one who needs to change. I am the one who needs to make the sacrifice. It was my mother all over again, only younger and more stable mentally. Then she made the mistake of saying that she had “been there and done that.” Yes, I said, that is true. But you were also 30. It’s very different when you’re over 45.

She assumes that because she is older, she is automatically wiser. She married at 20 and divorced at 30, yes, but being young and single (regardless of circumstances) and without children makes you a hot commodity. Add to the mix that she is Mormon, She put herself on an LDS dating site and she had to fight them off with a stick; she fought off a lot of patriarchal cretins and philistines, it’s true, but she went to visit one in Utah. She also met the man who is now her husband. Married men fell for my sister. She told me how one such man was “besotted with her”. What’s that like, I asked. No man has ever been besotted with me and I doubt any man ever will. That’s just how it is for some of us and no matter how many times we have to explain (which we do as we live in a world where coupled is the goal and the norm), typical people just don’t understand. It’s not that we’re oblivious to the attentions of other people, we are acutely aware. What bothers me more is the puritanical attitude she has towards love and sex and affection. That I am supposed to deny the flesh and move on with life. That the needs of the body are nothing to the needs of the soul. These are primal needs to be overcome. A friend of mine put it into perspective when he said, No, these are basic human needs not things to be conquered or overcome.

At the Seder I was on the end so I could get up and check on food as needed and serve when ready. My friend was to my left and his first cousin once removed was on my right. First cousin and I sat quietly for minute or two when I said, you may not remember but we’ve met before. He looked up from his plate.

-We have. When?
-Their 30th anniversary party.
-That’s right, he said. I remember.

I also told him that I was sorry to hear about his father, who had passed away unexpectedly. He said he had been trying to process it rationally but was finding it hard. I said, my marriage feel apart two years ago. Some things cannot be processed rationally. Sometimes there is no why. Much like the anniversary party, we talked the rest of the evening. Occasionally during the Seder he would say things that were just loud enough for me to hear. His nervousness at reading Hebrew. Things like when my sister jumped up to help me serve he said very softly, you are on the other side of the table. Sit down. Everything is under control. I told her to sit down. That she was a guest. Then I told him she tends to need to be the big sister. At one point I while everyone was eating he said, Eat. You’ve done enough. It’s time for you to eat. During the Seder he ran his fingers along the embossed edge of his plate. When presented with a bowl of leeks he ran his fingers over my hands before taking the bowl. It felt like comfort but it was probably nothing.

-Do you want to exchange contact information, he asked?
-Are you averse?

And with that he is in my phone and I am in his. As he left with his friend he turned to me and said, I really enjoyed talking to you. And I you, I said. And off into the wee hours of the morning they went. I do not expect to hear from him. I just don’t. I will not get my hopes up. It’s best if I don’t. You see, in three years he’s gone from being cute, geeky, and prone to occasional outbursts along the lines of, why do people say where you at? What’s wrong with where are you? to handsome, thoughtful, and intelligent. After the initial meeting he told my friends how much he enjoyed talking to me, how he liked mature women. Of course, there are mature women and there’s getting involved with a 47 year old woman. But there isn’t going to be any involvement because I don’t expect to hear from him. All this raises some interesting questions. If I have your contact information because you asked me for mine, can I contact you first? Why ask for my contact information, if you’re not going to contact me? Why am I bothering, since I’m not going to hear from him? Not getting my hopes up.

And so another year goes by. A year ago I started writing. Two years ago I filed for divorce.

Beggars, Choosers, Winners, Losers

Beggars, Choosers, Winners, Losers

Actual conversation:

Acquaintance: Hey, I don’t know how you feel about set ups, but I know a (feminist) guy you might like.
Me: Hmmm… First question. How old?
Acquaintance: I’m actually not sure. maybe my age, maybe year older, so 36/37.
Me: How does he feel about dating a woman who is 10 years older?
Acquaintance: Are you really?
Me: Yes, I’m 47.
Acquaintance: I’m a terrible judge of ages. Definitely thought you were few years older. He’s pretty open. I’ll ask.

Uh, huh. I don’t expect to hear any more on the subject.

I don’t mean to disparage the person who offered, she meant well, but when I brought up my age I thought I heard the distinct sound of backpedaling. It sounds like Oh or Um of Hmmm. Sometimes it sounds like Ah. In my experience, if you hear ‘Ah’ it’s over. I heard it when guys would inquire after my sister and I would inform them she was married. This is something of a relief, to be honest. It saves me from having to hear Oh or Um or Ah during a face-to-face conversation. It saves me from having to sit across from another man who is having second thoughts and withdrawing. The last time I watched in happen in real time. I admit to being totally confused by what I saw. Now I know. Next time I’m walking out. It also means I have nothing to hide. In this day and age, women are duplicitous for wearing makeup and push-up bras. I could say that I’m 40 and when the truth comes out he could decide that he didn’t want to base a relationship on a lie.

In the end, my acquaintance will either go back to her friend or she won’t. If she does, he will decide to meet or he won’t. I have no control over any of those variables. I think I can safely say that his decision to meet or not will be based on his preconceived notions of a 47-year old woman. His mind may go to his mother and her friends, coworkers, women he sees who he assumes are over 40. The Internet is no friend. It’s menopause, invisibility, “this is what over 40 looks like” (read with a grain of salt), how to be sexy after 40, makeup rules, hair rules, fashion rules. You wind up throwing your hands in the air because either you care that you’ve broken a rule or you throw your hands in the air and you break the rules. There are few consequences for breaking the rules because, as you are not a celebrity, no one is looking at you. Occasionally there are satirical articles like women over 40 should never wear long hair, complete with pictures of celebrities with resplendent locks (because celebrities are just like us). The media often uses celebrities as examples of what women can and cannot do at certain stages of our lives. There were also a lot of articles about how we had been found dead; in our homes, at the grand canyon, falling off snowmobiles. Like I said, the Internet is not our friend.

There are a thousand variables at play but I can control only one-me. Today, sitting here right now, I’m not sure I care. A lunch or dinner date would entail me spending more time looking at the menu for something that might not make me sick than engaged in conversation. I can’t drink, so no social lubricant. My body can’t tolerate sugar right now, so no dessert. Small talk is a nightmare. So what do you do? Yes, I’m a librarian. No, not a second career. It is cool. I like books but I don’t have time to read at work. What’s your dog’s name? I have a cat. How old is your daughter? I don’t have any children. No, My cat is not my child. Who’s your favourite Doctor? She told me he has brown hair, brown eyes, and a goatee, is around 5’10”-6′, and is a “out of shape but not overweight”. Brown hair, brown eyes, goatee, a little out of shape, and around 5’10” is how I would have described my ex-husband when we first met. The more she went on the worse it got. He likes sci-fi and fantasy. He loves Doctor Who. He works in IT. I knit my eyebrows together and thought, oh no.

I am a nerd. I like books and movies, and science and technology and science fiction and body horror. Yes, I like Doctor Who but I don’t want it to be a criteria for dating and mating. Cards Against Humanity is fun but I don’t do games. I hate game night. I’d rather spend the even home with popcorn and Cronenberg than go out for fucking game night. Game night with couples is like finding the end of the Internet. You sit there wondering has it came to this? I like art and theatre and comics and wine and all kinds of music but I hate musical theatre. Musical theatre is asinine. I also like cars and motorcycles and whiskey and sports. I played hockey, baseball, softball, and volleyball. I watched boxing with my father and would really like to see a boxing match live. I would love to drive a rally car on an actual rally track. I deserve a Pagani Zonda. Apparently these qualities, instead of making me a well-rounded person, make me difficult to type. We all must fit a type. We must fit neatly into the forms that online dating profiles require. I hate being pigeonholes, yet here I am.

I find myself drawn to bigger men. I’m finding myself drawn more to men around my age with a little something to show for it; signs of a life lived, not so clean, not so perfect. I like a man who isn’t easily intimidated. I want a man to be forthright with me. I’ve heard men complain how women are not direct with them, but they do the same things. It’s ok if you don’t like something I like, we’ll work around it. Fortunately, my ex hasn’t killed my enthusiasm for dark hair or dark eyes nor has he ruined facial hair. I prefer facial hair be kept under control. The big beard, like musical theatre, is ridiculous, except for The Persian God. The Persian God is a young man who lives in my community and he looks like something out of a Persian bas relief-right down to the perfectly angled beard. He’s amazing. He’s also nice, gregarious, and gay. Forearm tattoos… I may be one of the few women who finds a man’s hands and forearms to be sexy to the point of distracting. One day I missed my subway because I was transfixed by a man with beautiful hands and forearms seated across from me reading El Diario. There’s a bartender at one of the local dive bars who has black hair, black eyes, and sleeve of tattoos. He’s also fairly shy around me. I want him to mix me drinks and serve me macaroni and cheese wearing an apron and nothing else. I want him to call me Domina. I want him to kneel before me like I am a queen. I want him to lock the bar doors and go down on me like he means it. I want to run my fingers through those curls and hold those shoulders for dear life. I don’t get what I want. I don’t ask.

Which brings me to, he’s pretty open. Pretty open might go on a date with an older woman, just to see, but there won’t be a second. He has his pick of women his own age and younger. Pretty open is not going to be receptive to being tied up and smacked with a riding crop on occasion. Pretty open is not going to be receptive to wearing a dog collar while being ordered around. Pretty open is not going to like the idea of wearing a pair of women’s side-tie underwear under a pair of jeans or a suit. He won’t like the feeling of being off-kilter. He is allowed to have preconceived notions and so am I. I’ve yet to meet a man who was willing to submit. As a woman, that’s supposed to be my nature. I comply. I submit willingly. And you know what, sometimes I do but it isn’t the essence of my being. It’s hard for me to not say, if pretty open is anything like my ex but I can’t help myself. I need a fresher start.

It’s Drug Therapy, Not Chemo.

It’s Drug Therapy, Not Chemo.

There is a moment in Fight Club, my favourite romantic comedy. You know the one. Chloe, a woman with terminal cancer, steps up to the podium. She is thin. Her hair gone, she wears a scarf on her head. Her cheekbones stand in sharp relief, likely from Cancer Anorexia Cachexia (I work in cancer so I know this stuff). She is a little sheepish at first but she composes herself and announces that she wants to get laid one last time. She has everything a prospective sexual partner would need to participate. She is considerate, she does not expect him to enjoy the experience, per se, so she provides the necessary inducements-her willingess, porn, lube, and drugs. After all, who would want to have sex with a dying woman. She is in this for her own pleasure, her own need, her own desire. She fights so hard to be seen for the woman she is as opposed to the neutered invalid. When you are sick, you are supposed to dedicate yourself to recovery, survival. You are supposed to be noble and unselfish in your suffering. Pleasure, sexual pleasure in particular, is frivolous.

I do not have cancer. I have a brain tumour. As someone who works in cancer the two are different but, in this instance, there are similarities. In this country we have started to treat cancer like a chronic disease, something that needs long-term monitoring and management. Most benign brain tumours do not recur, but pituitary adenomas recur in anywhere from 24-36% of patients. Mine came back in seven. They are more likely to recur if an adenoma remnant is seen on MRI post cessation of treatment. The larger the tumour the more likely there is to be a remnant, making recurrence more likely. I had one follow-up appointment with the surgeon and one follow-up appointment with the endocrinologist after my surgery. Neither scheduled an MRI. Had I known then what I know now, I would have asked. The surgeon was so confident he removed it all that he told me to go and never come back. Subsequent MRIs were done without contrast, rendering them useless.

Now that I am being treated for a recurring tumour it’s hit me that I have a chronic illness that will require constant monitoring and management. I can never be without health insurance and I can only hope that I don’t get dumped into a high-risk pool. I will continue to need blood tests and will likely go on medication again until menopause. Pituitary adenomas are known to cause infertility in women (part of that whole HPG axis). Drug therapy can be discontinued after menopause and prolactin levels can be allowed to continue to rise until such time as imaging is required to determine whether the adenoma has reached a clinically important size (1). That elevated prolactin levels have been associated with impaired sexual function (PMID:26902871), major depressive disorder (PMID:24182617), worsening of cognitive processes (PMID:26701376), reduced quality of sleep (PMID:25792374) and depression, all of which may persist after biochemical cure (PMID:25605584) is of little consequence. In short, if you are of an age where fertility is not part of the equation then you are supposed to live with it; coming from those who know precious little about what living with it means.

Five weeks in, nausea is still my constant companion. It doesn’t wake me in the middle of the night anymore. Now it hits the next day about two hours after I’ve eaten breakfast. Sometimes it lingers throughout the day, immune to the Chimes Ginger Chews my sister sent me. Sometimes it subsides just long enough that I can eat something and then it returns. I see my doctor in four weeks. She will see that I am not tolerating the medication as well as we had hoped. I have lost weight that I did not need or have to lose. As I write this I have been going back and forth about whether I should get something for lunch. Most days this is a difficult decision. Should I eat and feel sick or not eat and feel sick? There is no difference between the two. By the time I decide the cafeteria at work is often closed or whatever I brought with me has lost its appeal. We will discuss the side effects, how long before the next round of labwork, how I’m doing, whether I’m seeing anyone, when we’re going for ice cream or lunch. I will tell her that I haven’t spoken to my ex in nine months but I can still fill her in on the major details. I can tell her that I had five dates with a man who walked away because he feared intimacy. I can tell her that I celebrated my negative STD panel with sushi at a Chinese restaurant. I can also tell her that while I am no longer grieving the loss of my marriage, I am going back and forth between the anger and depression stages of grief in the loss of intimacy. Yep, I miss sex more than I miss the man. He was my first and only and I foolishly thought there would be others. Now, with my face sunken from constant nausea and sleepiness, I’m not so sure. I’m not sure there’s a point. I don’t see a point to dating when everything I eat makes me sick. It makes lunches and dinners difficult. And that saddens me now in a way that grieving the end of my marriage does not. I will not be able to stuff that emotion down sitting in the exam room getting my yearly.

The strange and vivid dreams continue. Last night, a woman I did not know tried to have sex with me. I wasn’t interested. She got bored, wished me well, and left. The night before I walked into a barnwood red house that had steep and narrow staircase that wound down in front of an enormous picture window. As I descended, I realised that the opening between the stairs and the ceiling was too small for me so I ascended the stairs, found another way out, and left. As I continued the tour of the neighbourhood I entered a large, clean, well-appointed house; well-appointed and silent. I was alone among the marble countertops, stainless appliances, fireplaces, dark hardwood floors, and stone walls. It was exciting and lonely. A few nights ago, I dreamed that I ran into my ex-husband and his girlfriend. He insisted of showing me his new houses. I say houses because they were two enormous Victorian manses connected by a third floor bridge. The houses were dark, as many of the period were, with large rooms, dark wood paneling, and dark wood floors. He was most impressed that he bought two houses and that the two were connected by a bridge, but the bridge was crumbling. I watched as bits of wood fell away and beams rotted. I bid them both good day walked up a hill to a large brick apartment complex buzzing with neighbours, walked in, and found myself an apartment. The houses struck me because I remember seeing something similar from the New York State Thruway as a little girl and being fascinated. Who lives there? Why a bridge connecting the two houses?

All this while I am trying to figure out how to get unstuck. I feel stuck in my dealings with my ex and even more stuck in my dealings with my mother. Dealing with my ex will be infinitely easier. We are no longer on speaking terms and last night I told two of my friends who are still on speaking terms with him that I no longer wanted to know what was going on in his life. They were most understanding and thought it was a good idea. They also expect him to fade from their lives once he moves away and the baby comes. Two weeks ago I found a stamp my ex bought while on vacation. I put it in my jewelry box to keep it safe while we moved and found it there while looking for a pair of earrings. I have decided to give it back. We have one more set of mutual friends. I will give the stamp to them and ask them to return it to him and tell him I wish him well. I will also tell them that I no longer wish to be informed of my ex’s comings and goings. Then I will delete some of the pictures I have of him, not all as some are good.

As for managing my mother in the short term, that has become managing my family in the short term. I found out that my sister is not my ally. When I tried to discuss managing our mother with her she countered with how our mother is dealing with depression, anxiety, and OCD. How I insist our mother change her behaviour without doing anything in return. As someone who is trying to manage her own mental illness I am aware of these things and take them seriously, but our mother is not managing her mental illness. While she is taking medication she is letting her mental illness manage her. She either cannot or will not seek therapy. She takes her frustrations out on our father and me. When I told my sister that I needed to rebuild my self-esteem she told me I should not base my self-esteem on the opinions of others. While this is true, we are talking about our parents and from whom do a person’s first impressions of himself or herself come from but parents. This is what my sister does. She plays the big sister who knows so much more than her little sister. She says things that are true but not helpful. She is Mary Bennet dispensing the obvious. And I have lost another confidante. I still don’t know what to do about our mother except shore myself up a little more in time for her return in the summer.

So much for my summer of love.

1 Snyder, PL. Management of Hyperprolactinemia. UpToDate, Post TW, UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2016.