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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Me and a God

Me and a God

We weren’t sure we should tell you. I even asked my mom. She thought your ex should tell you but then I told her you were no longer on speaking terms. I thought it best to tell you in case you ran into them somewhere… We’ve known for a few months. We didn’t think you were in any shape to hear his news… He’s not happy, he’s scared… We thought they’d get married first… He thinks he’s getting what he wants, but it’s not going to go like he thinks. It’s going to be a shitshow…

My ex’s girlfriend is pregnant.

My friends think they are reassuring me when they say this relationship is doomed to failure. That is of no comfort because it is just as likely that it will not fail. Our marriage failed because I finally had the means to escape. I had a job and family in the area. If I didn’t have the means to escape it would have ended later, but it would have ended. The fact is that I couldn’t take it any more and as hard as it is now it is better than being with him. What is unfortunate is that I went from him to nothing-a full year without even so much as a man flirting with me. Then I got pinged in November by a man who thought I was interesting. Last Monday he dumped me. The following Friday he texted me saying we have great chemistry (we do) and if I wanted to try spooning and cuddling without “venturing into sex” to let him know. At the advice of a friend, some of the best advice I’d received in a long time, I slept on it. In the morning I texted him asking, what are you hiding from me? He said he wasn’t hiding anything. When we spoke one last time that evening, it was all about him. I had a feeling in my gut that I shouldn’t take it any further. At least it only took me five dates to figure it out. The last one took three months. I’m a feeler…

For someone who claims to be a feeler, I said, you have remarkably little regard for the feelings of others.
I’ll feel this later, he said.
No, you wont.

This is how it ends, he wanted to be friends and again I said no. I told him to go. My ex wanted to be friends and, in the end, I said no. The ex-boyfriend before him wanted to be friends and I said sure. Even after we split we were able to finish each other’s sentences, but in the end I realise he used me ill just like the others. They all say the same thing: you’re strong, you’re amazing, you’re brilliant, you deserve the best, you’ll bounce back. I am all those things but I still bounce back to nothing. I go back to being totally invisible and that’s why all of this hurts so much. That my ex bounced from woman to woman to woman, always having someone to take care of him, with little effort. I have had to manage everything myself. I have taken care of everyone else in my life and no one is willing to care for me. I don’t think I need to be taken care of, but I would like someone to care for me. That would be a nice change.

Tony Robbins said that relationships are places to give and it is not about what you are going to get out of a relationship. I’m always leery of financial gurus, particularly those who offer relationship advice. The part that stuck in my mind was when he said a relationship is where you give. He inferred that a relationship is not a place where you take. I found this to be utterly ridiculous because to me a relationship is a place where you share. It’s something you nurture and grow, or at least that’s what I thought. Maybe it is a place where you give without the expectation of getting something like respect, friendship, companionship in return. I don’t believe in love any more. Love is fleeting and ephemeral. I don’t believe in god any more either. God cares more for the welfare of those who do me ill than he does me. Coming from a religious family, this is not easy to say, but even my religious sister agrees that this is all a bit much. She asked if I wanted her husband to give me a blessing. At first, I thought why not. Then I thought, from whom.

Getting Up and Going Home

Getting Up and Going Home

There has been some heavy reading in the press of late. Rachel Cusk of the New York Times reviewed two books on assisted reproduction. Earlier this month Jennifer Senior, also writing for the Times, reviewed The Art of Waiting. In the review, Ms. Simon writes the following.

“I thought quite a lot about what normal is and isn’t as I was reading “The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood,” Belle Boggs’s thoughtful meditation on childlessness, childbearing, and — for some — the stretch of liminal agony in between. Her book is a corrective and a tonic, a primer and a dispeller of myths. It is likely to become a go-to guide for the many couples who discover that having children is not the no-assembly-required experience they were expecting. They will come away enlightened, reassured and comforted by her debunker mentality.”

I have to agree with Ms. Simon’s assessment, but for a reason she does not state here. You see, the author and her husband were successful. I doubt very much that anyone would recommend a book so wholeheartedly to anyone, single or married, going through this process had the protagonists not been successful. I doubt the other book, Avalanche: A Love Story, will be held up as a corrective, tonic, or primer. Cusk describes Avalanche as, “a harrowing and profoundly disturbing account of self-immolation in pursuit of an ideal, for what Leigh has failed to recognize about ‘creative life’ is that it too seeks to concretize the ineffable, and that it arises in people of a single-mindedness and determination so strong it can destroy them.” After years of trying, love, sex, trust, compassion, solidarity disappeared. The author’s marriage failed. She continues her pursuit alone. I did not. As I have said before, I did not feel the insatiable hunger for a child that many without experience. When it was over, I wondered where the love, trust, compassion, solidarity, the friendship went. Now I know. What’s worse, I went to being a person to a vessel to a non-entity. I am still struggling to overcome my erasure.

Having been through this process, I read these reviews to compare notes. I get everything I need from the reviews, so I don’t need to read the books. I know about the rituals, the infantilization of language (follies? embies? baby bump?), the seemingly endless menu of choices, the statistics (most of them inflated, in my experience) my ex would have understood the not knowing when to stop because he didn’t. I didn’t and don’t understand the not knowing when to stop, but then again it was my body and later another woman’s body who were undergoing these treatments. This is where most women who undertake this journey and I differ, and I wonder if they experienced the same clinic fatigue as I. Our clinic got tired of dealing with us because we were difficult clients and because we were failures. I also don’t think they knew what to do when the man, not the woman, has rampant babyfever. I was never desperate to be a mother, much less a biological one. Most of my friends are on that path now, or are about to embark on that path. It’s the largest not-so-secret club in the world. As a non-parent, I know a surprising amount about the rituals of parenthood simply because my parent friends speak so openly and freely about playdates, birthday parties, mommy boards, and mommy bloggers. I have nothing to say on the subject except to allow my friends who are mothers to vent about the ridiculous standards to which they are held. Of all of my friends who have children, none of them had to resort to IUI or IVF, and only one so far has had a hysterosalpingiogram. She told me about how much it hurt because she knew I’d understand. I don’t talk much about my experience because there’s no one to tell, really. No one wants to hear what I have to say.

These patterns are recurring in other aspects of my life. No one wants to talk about my failed marriage, except my therapist. No one wants to talk about the abuse, except my therapist. No one wants to hear about the loneliness because either they can’t relate or they worry that mine mirrors their own. I think I’m tired of talking about this, but I’m stuck and I can’t move. I’m bound by my own anger and I can’t find the end of the rope to untangle myself. Nothing I did was right in my marriage and I can’t even grieve properly. I want to scream and kick things, but there is nowhere to scream and nothing to kick.

the best way out is always through

the best way out is always through

So says Robert Frost.

One afternoon, my now ex and I were discussing adolescent rebellion. He said that while he had rebelled completely, I had not. Oh really? How do you rebel so completely, I asked. He gave me the usual litany: long hair, earrings, the goatee he still wears, his music, his friends, his non-traditional career path. In my mind he barely rebelled at all apart from the usual trappings. That he had chosen a non-traditional career path was true, but then again his father had chosen a non-traditional path as well. The rest was window dressing.

When you grow up, as I did, in a household where expressing emotion is, well, discouraged dealing with strong emotions, hell ANY emotions, can be difficult. It is best to bury or sublimate; tuck your feelings away or find a more socially acceptable outlet for them and move on. Maintaining the facade, a facade built on secrecy, of the good family was paramount to my parents. My parents prided themselves on a what goes on in the house stays in the house policy. My sister and I were free to say whatever we liked in the house, but it went no further. The strange thing is that I don’t remember us talking about anything, ever. My parents may have discussed politics, current affairs, church, work, but I don’t remember my sister and I contributing. What conversation there was was never animated. One of the few outbursts I remember occurred when my sister took my mother’s “you can tell me anything” speech to heart and told her she had slept with her then boyfriend. Our mother called her a slut and a whore and damaged goods. She told my sister no decent man would ever want her. She threw my sister out of the house, then sent our father after her when she tried to leave. You think I would have learned from this lesson, but I didn’t. I tried talking to my mother about what it means to be a modern, single, middle-aged woman in the world. I try to talk to her about work, friends, dating, love, sex, feeling invisible. I so wanted to believe that I could tell her anything. It’s like going to the hardware store for groceries; you won’t find strawberries amongst the screwdrivers.

In short, I am woefully unequipped to deal with the emotions that I am experiencing. I want them to go away. They can go out for drinks or hang out on the therapist’s sofa for a while and leave me in peace. So here goes. Here’s what I’m feeling. (These are in no particular order except the one that percolates from my brain):

Relief

  • I’m glad it’s over and he’s sailing further and further away. He just told me he is leaving our synagogue. I don’t think it will be long before he is out of my life entirely. I wouldn’t be surprised if I get a wedding invitation. Maybe I’ll go.
  • I think he is mentally ill and I am glad to be away from him.
  • I’m relieved I never have to worry about whether he will hold down whatever job he has at the time. My mother recounted an episode where he told the head of the department his study was flawed. Shortly after that his bosses informed him that they didn’t have the money to fund him. Few things are as stressful as waiting to hear whether your husband’s grant funding came through and whether you will be a single- or dual-income household.
  • I’m so glad I got the cat. Just the other day I was telling a friend how we had been through a lot together the cat and me.
  • I see glimpses of the man I fell in love with and I know it won’t last. He is on his best behaviour right now but eventually the facade will crumble. I see him for what he is.

Grief

  • I mourn the loss of the man I met and fell in love with. I had him for two years then he vanished.
  • I mourn the life I gave up in New York.
  • I mourn the loss of the woman I was.
  • I mourn the end of a relationship.
  • I mourn the loss of a companion and partner. While it is better to be alone than in a bad relationship, I’ve still lost something.
  • I mourn the end of the good times.
  • I mourn the loss of regard. It’s one thing to not care about getting someone’s good opinion, it’s quite another when your spouse no longer respects you and you don’t know why.

Anger

  • I’m angry at myself for staying.
  • I’m angry at him for not having the courage to leave when he was so unhappy.
  • I’m angry that he didn’t take me up on my offer to be a bicoastal couple.
  • I’m angry that I dropped everything and moved around the country; sacrificing my career for what?
  • I’m angry that I didn’t see the writing on the wall for what it was.
  • I’m angry that he ignored me when I asked for help around the house.
  • I’m angry that he found someone so soon. My male friends tell me that they moved on quickly when their relationships (not marriages) ended. My therapist tells me it demonstrates a lack of regard for the relationship. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
  • His sense of his own self-importance is maddening.
  • This whole episode has done a number on my sense of self-worth.
  • I’m angry that I didn’t see the same behaviour patterns in my now ex that I saw in my father.
  • I’m mad that I wasn’t kinder to myself. I should have treated myself better.

Surprise

  • I’m surprised at how much I don’t miss him.
  • I’m amazed at how quickly that happened.
  • I’m surprised how many people were concerned for my safety. That they said nothing until after does not come as a surprise.
  • Considering that I don’t miss him, the depth of sadness that comes over me at times has caught me off guard.
  • That we still have amicable conversations comes as a surprise.

Longing

  • I miss intimacy.
  • I miss sex, even though I’ve probably never had good sex in my life.
  • Yes, the two are separate and interconnected. Personally, I’m not the type for one without the other. That’s why I’m not on Tinder. I missed out on most of the online dating thing, so to me being 46 and on Tinder is the sort of thing The Kids in the Hall would have lampooned.
  • I am firmly ensconced in my blanket fort with my cocoa and my graham crackers and my books and some movies. I don’t want to hear about flirting or crushes or dating. I don’t want to hear about other people’s sex lives. I don’t want to see people kiss at the end of services. I don’t want to hear about soul mates. No wedding blessings please, unless the phrase, “it’s a trap” is included. And I will do just about anything to avoid a baby naming. The professionals call this cocooning and it is normal. Wikipedia, however, likens it to agoraphobia and hermiting. I will continue to labour under the delusion that it is normal.

There are many more emotions swirling around, but these are the ones I can put to paper, as it were, today.

Consider This a Public Service

Consider This a Public Service

This is a public service to my compatriots who find themselves poised at the edge of the dating pool in their mid-40s. It’s an encapsulation of the advice you read online or receive from the well-meaning or not-so-well-meaning. It is in no particular order.

  1. Get a job.
    Done! Mission accomplished! Bring on the eligible suitors! I admit to being more than a little floored by this one, then I looked at many of my contemporaries and realised that they stayed home with their children while their (now ex-) husbands worked. Going out there and getting even a part-time job is a major step towards self-sufficiency I’ve had for most of my married life. To that I say huzzah my sisters and welcome to the workforce, but don’t expect to get dates out of it.
  2. Join a gym
    Apparently people hook-up at the gym? Not me. I go to the gym to exercise and get out of my head for a couple of hours a day. Besides, the gym is a microcosm of my neighbourhood. Most members are either in their 20s or 60s, there are few members in my age bracket.
  3. Put yourself out there
    So I can watch my hypothesis that 90% of men chase the same 10 women be proved in real-time? The scientific method in action! No thanks. I’m not there yet. Right now the wounds are still very raw. I get daily reminders of my own invisibility which reinforce my reluctance to put myself out there.

    I tried online dating once. I had two responses and one date in two years.

  4. Be yourself
    Be yourself! Just understand that that self is perfectly groomed, immaculately dressed, feminine within the standard of beauty, funny but not too funny because no one wants to date a clown, sexually you’re,”…like Dora the Explorer, but your passport is just filled to the brim.”

    Well, you know what? I am a smart, funny, sexy, educated, unabashed feminist, woman, homeowner, who has great style and good manners. I’m a witty, cultured, urbane, sophisticated, baseball lover and hockey fanatic. I am tall and lithe and I am so much more than the sum of my parts.  But I am “middle-aged”, with super-short red hair, and black glasses (I joined the profoundly visually impaired this year so no contacts for me), so nothing else seems to matter.

  5. Think/Be positive
    Fuck you.
  6. Date younger
    OK, sure.
  7. Date older
    OK… sure.
  8. Find a man in his 60s who wants to settle down.
    I’m only 46 and I don’t want to settle down. I’m already settled. I have a career and I own a home.
  9. My friend got involved with a married man…
    I don’t do adultery
  10. They broke up and she didn’t have sex for five years…
    How is this helping?
  11. Then she met a nice guy.
    Let me see if I heard this series correctly, you’re friend got involved with a married man. After they broke up she didn’t have sex for five years, and then she met a nice guy.
  12. There are plenty of guys in their 40s who are single.
    I hear this from friends who do not live here. There may be tons of single men in their 40s in Atlanta or DC or Seattle, but not here. Here men marry, move their families to the suburbs, and stay there.
  13. Go to places where men are: bars, grocery stores.
    Married men and men with partners go to the grocery store with their wives/partners. Single men use Instacart or Blue Apron. As for bars, I like dives where the food is good.

Of course, not all the advice is terrible

  1. Sweetie, this is a death. You are going to grieve. You need to mourn your loss.
  2. Get this vibrator and get this book and take care of yourself first.
    The vibrator is not working out as well as I had hoped. The noonday demon pops into my head and asks why are you bothering to fantasize. You’ll never get this. And when you’re straight like me, there is nothing quite like a man.
  3. This is going to hurt. The hurt may not go away, but you will handle it better and it will change.
    This has been mostly true. Some days I handle my grief better than others.
  4. Take a moment and look at all you’ve done since September. You’re doing incredibly well and you should be proud.
  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
  6. Find your people.
  7. Go out there and have fun and forget about everything else.
  8. Get a therapist.
  9. Just because people give advice doesn’t mean you have to take it.
  10. There are so many people who love you, but you’re in so much pain you can’t see it. It’s ok. Lean on your friends.

Been Down So Long…

Been Down So Long…

If you don’t believe I’m sinking, look what a hole I’m in
If you don’t believe I love you, look what a fool I been
Baby don’t believe I love you? Just look what a fool I been
Don’t believe I love you, baby, just look what a fool I been

-“I Will Turn Your Money Green” -Alex Chilton (orig. Fuzzy Lewis)

I would greatly appreciate it if the mainstream media would kindly refrain from telling me how everyone from grade schoolers to nonagenarians is having sex. I am not. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. A couple of weeks ago it was The New Yorker. Today it was The New York Times. Apparently at 70 and 80 you are not too old for sex, and that’s great. Apparently, at 46, I am. The expectation is, of course, that I am married and safely ensconced in the suburbs with my children. I am emerging from my divorce into no-man’s land-literally and figuratively.  It’s bad enough that nearly everyone I know is having sex and those who are not are doing so voluntarily; trust me, they would have no trouble finding a partner, if they so chose. So far they have been kind and not made fun of me, but I can’t help but think that it’s only a matter of time.

Two weeks ago my therapist advised me to flirt. You work at a research hospital, she said. You’re surrounded by men. Flirt with them. Learn how to flirt again. She doesn’t understand the rigid caste system that has arisen in such communities. I do not have an MD or a PhD. I have a Masters degree. I am also not 25, like most of the nurses. These factors put me, socially, on par with the administrative assistants who are mostly married women around my age or older. In short, I am useful but invisible. Doctors pair up with doctors, lawyers pair up with lawyers, executives with executives, and librarians used to pair up with librarians (if you were lucky enough to find one). If anything, I would get a reputation for being – I think Jane Austen may have said it best – the most determined flirt that ever made her family ridiculous. It’s hard enough to get respect where I work. who needs that. Besides, flirting is pointless. Sure it’s fun but and it’s nice to feel that little spark, but in the end it serves as a reminder that you have no prospects, that you are alone, and that you have been cast aside for someone younger, more traditional, with proven fecundity. Fuck flirting.