Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

December 31, 2012

The Bravery of Friendship

All this time I thought I'd been missing a serious romantic relationship. That may be true, but if I've learned anything over the last few weeks, during which I turned 40, it's the realization that what I've been missing is true friendship.

It's not that I don't have a handful of close friends whom I love and trust. It's just that I rarely get to see them as they live far away and/or have kids and families that keep them understandably busy. When I do see or talk to them, time is limited and often interrupted and there's just never the right time for me to say, "Help. I need you."

The months leading up to my 40th birthday were heavy with self-assessment. I spent the bulk of my adult life trying to get what I thought I wanted, and failing. How do I want to spend the second half of my life? My head was spinning with options - the benefit of having nothing to hold you down, I guess.

I could decide to plunk down some roots right here, scrabble together money to buy a condo and throw myself into the career and family I have right now.

Or I could decide that having a child is my first priority and figure out a way to get pregnant like one of my single friends who just had her sperm donor baby. I'd have to change everything about my life, probably move in with my mom, and accept a new life that revolves around my child.

Or I could wage an all-out assault on the men of Southern California and throw a wad of cash at a matchmaker to find me a partner or else. (One phone call to such a service, after wading through the many companies essentially geared towards finding hot 20-something women for rich old men, quickly ruled this option out. When I asked how much the service cost she hesitated then said, without yet knowing anything about me, "Well, if you're like 39 and really want a baby, well, that's going to be reeeaaallly expensive." Pathetic. True.)

Or I could abandon my life here and start fresh somewhere new, probably the Bay Area.

Throughout the year, I've spent time pondering and poking around each possibility, changing my mind with every passing week, and growing more and more confused. When I did try to talk it out with someone, there was never enough time to do more than lay it all out, which I'm sure to many of the people I tried to talk to, came off as complaining.

But, see, I didn't just want to talk. I wanted to LISTEN. I wanted someone to stop and take a chunk out of their time to hear what I was saying, process it with what they know about me, and come back with their thoughts, ideas, suggestions or just ask more questions to help me probe deeper. It's a lot to ask and I don't think I even knew I was asking it -- until I got it.

The night before the birthday party I'd planned for myself, my dear friend from college came down from Orange County to stay over. With her husband and daughter at home and nothing but hours ahead of us, we talked. First about her own familial issues, then moving on to my stuff. This friend is a loving person, and a wonderful listener and her undivided attention and obvious compassion allowed me to really listen to what I was saying as I went through the same old tired list of what was confusing me. And what I heard was monumental. I heard that while I would love to have a family, I am certain of the fact that I don't want to have a child on my own. I was raised by a single mom and I know the hectic pace and cost of doing it alone, and that would make me a miserable, stressed out person and a terrible mother. One option crossed off the list.

That reduction of possibilities opened me up to another, one that I'd ruled out as a child and never allowed myself to reconsider. Adoption. I am the youngest of four children, and also the only biological child of my mother and father. I love my older siblings and consider them my "real" family, but I'd be lying if I said the fact that they are adopted (all from different families, and all as infants) played a part in the myriad difficulties they've had over the years, which subsequently made my childhood scary, unstable and maddening.

I loved adoption for everyone else in the world but me - until that night, when I finally had enough clarity to put it back on the table. Not for now, but for if and when I am financially stable enough to do it on my own. Or if I do eventually get married and am unable to bear children.

The simple act of excluding one possibility and reinstating another had miraculous results. Instantly, I felt the thousand-pound burden of the baby hysteria I'd carried for the last 15 years evaporate. I was free. And it would never have happened if my friend hadn't sat with me, listened with intent interest, and helped move me along as I worked it all out at the dining room table.

Then last week I drove to Arizona to see another very close college friend who was out from New York visiting her in-laws. I was thrilled to be able to finally meet her one-year-old son and spend time with her family. Then we'd stay up late and talk, and I'd end up letting out all my fears in a stream of emotional tears. She listened, but also challenged many of my self-defeating assumptions  (a particularly well-honed skill of mine). But it wasn't until my last day there, when we were able to leave the baby, husband and in-laws behind for a one-on-one diner breakfast, that she let her brave act of love and friendship loose.

She started asking me questions about the end of my relationship with Geek Rebel, something I'd barely talked to her or anyone about. I pretty much slammed down the steel guard gates the moment he said "I came here to break up" outside my front door. I still had only quickly skimmed the lengthy email he sent the following week explaining why he did what he did so suddenly. I just couldn't bear thinking about it.

The more she asked, the more I realized I didn't have any real answers. She and I are very alike and, therefore, she's experienced many of the same conflicts with her own husband since we tend to pick similar types of men -- smart, quiet, sensitive -- to balance us out. The only difference is that she and her husband came out successfully on the other side after each taking hard looks at themselves and making real changes.

This is where the real friendship comes in. She said some things to me that were very hard to hear, and could easily have offended me. But they didn't because I knew what she was saying, as harsh as it might have sounded, was coming from a place of love and a sincere wish for my happiness. I fought her on it. She came back at me. I evaded. I pouted. She calmly continued. I listened.

Then I told her she could read the email from Geek Rebel, which I hadn't looked at in four months. As she read it at the table, my heart started pounding. I began to recall snippets from the email, not just the parts where he admitted his own wrongdoings, but the sections about what I'd done and said that essentially forced the break up. I hadn't been willing to go there before, but by the time she looked up from my iPhone I knew the time had come.

I thought about it on the five-hour drive home and over the next two days. This morning, December 31, I finally really read his email. And I responded.

Dismissed and Happy New Year.

December 14, 2012

I Don't Have Kids and I'm Just As Upset About The Shootings As You Are

There's so much to be sad (and angry) about in the wake of today's massacre in Connecticut: the senseless loss of innocent life, the likely festering of untreated mental illness, this country's obsession with packing heat...I could go on.

But let me make one thing clear, because I keep hearing it over and over and over again -- from the President on down to acquaintances on Facebook.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A PARENT TO FEEL OR UNDERSTAND THE MAGNITUDE OF THE PAIN.

People without children aren't heartless creatures who love less than the rest of you. We understand loss. We understand the need to protect innocent children. We worry about our nieces, nephews, friends' children. Heck, even kids we've never met.

It's bad enough that unmarried, childless women are entirely excluded from an ongoing political conversation that obsesses over "working moms" and "working families," as if single professionals don't take a beating without a dependent or two to write off (or a mortgage if we can't afford a home because we're living off of only one income). But to be excluded from the communal grief seems to sting even more.

I'm sure this bothers me more than most as I come to terms with the fact that I probably won't be joining the ranks of the "working moms" like I'd thought now that I'm 40 and without a romantic prospect (or frankly a desire to find one) in sight. But I can't be the only one who's grown tired of feeling invisible and unimportant, can I?

Now that I got that off my chest, I can return to the ranks of Americans feeling absolutely exhausted by the sadness and senselessness of today -- and all the other days of gun violence before it. At times like this, I wish an inactive uterus  did alleviate the pain that one feels over the murder of children. But, I assure you, it doesn't.


November 27, 2012

Digital Remnants

I never thought my Hulu login would outlast my relationship.

That's what I think every time Geek Rebel's name pops up when I go to my subscriptions. I have my own login, of course, but since I refused to pay for Hulu Plus, GR used his when we watched TV at my place. Now when I log on at home alone, I see his name and remember when I introduced him to the TV show "Wilfred" (the American version; he later turned me on to the original Australian) and felt my heart surge when I saw that he liked it as much as me. (I believe that the show is me in TV sitcom form. Take from that what you will.)

When we first broke up, I really struggled with whether or not to log out once and for all. I don't know his password, so if I took this proactive step, I'd be locked out of the Hulu Plus universe forever (yes, I'm still too stubborn to pay for it).

But I put it off until the inevitable moment when Hulu asked if I wanted to "stay logged on." Yes or No? Do I still want to remember that 8-month blip of a relationship? Sure, I was sad at first when he dumped me so out of the blue. Until I realized it wasn't out of the blue at all, but the right call for us both. It doesn't hurt much to remember that.

But it stings like a mofo when I think about what that relationship really meant to me --  my Hail Mary pass at the husband-baby-house life I'd been striving for over the last 15 years. (Yes, I know, "striving" was probably the problem. What can I say? Shoot me for wanting something and trying to get it, why don't you?) And now that I'm staring down the chamber at 40 -- the dream of that life about to be blown to bits -- I'm not all that eager to see Geek Rebel's name and remember.

When the Yes or No question came up, like I knew it would, I had a clear choice. And I chose Yes - I would like to stay logged on - even if it means a momentary stab of pain every time I navigate to the menu. See,  I like my Hulu Plus and, while I won't pay for it, I'm happy to take advantage of it those few times a week I actually have time to watch TV.

Deep down, maybe I wrote this post hoping just a little bit that Geek Rebel reads this blog (he did at least once during our relationship). Just like he was the one who took the action to end our "us," maybe he'll again be the one to yank away that last remnant of himself by changing his password. I can live with that. (But if you are reading this, GR, and feeling generous, by all means feel free to give me a reprieve.)

Geek Rebel also gave me a Google Nexus tablet. I'm happy to say that it carries no baggage with it whatsoever.



September 13, 2012

Happy Distractions

I leave tomorrow on my Vietnam vacation, but before I go I wanted to share something I learned over the course of the last few weeks that might be helpful to anyone struggling through a break-up or any other distressing event (I guess that means everyone).

The moment I closed the door, literally, on Geek Rebel after his abbreviated dumping speech, I began planning my distraction. I'm sick of moping over failed relationships. There's just no time for that anymore. Because we were preparing to embark on our first vacation together (hence the reason for the fight that led to our demise), I decided that distraction would be planning my own damn vacation.

I'm not the kind of person who revels in plotting out a vacation. I find it kind of tedious. Yet it wasn't really the details of the trip that mattered to me. It was the act of choosing my own destiny and making it happen. 

In this case I chose a trip to Vietnam. I picked a tour group I'd been following for years. I liked their sensibility (small groups, focused on an authentic experience - not Americans sequestered in an air-conditioned tour bus) and the tours allowed for tons of free time; they just make sure you get to your destinations. Basically, they remove the part of trip planning I find to be tedious and nerve-wracking, once on the ground. 

Within two days of the dumping I'd booked my vacation and was already starting to feel better. Of course, sadness, self-pity, loneliness and anger crept in, as they should when processing a significant break-up. I acknowledged them--maybe wallowed in them for a few hours-- then purposefully turned my attention back to the trip, which was mine, all mine. 

I shopped for the right clothes for the hot, humid weather (late summer sales only amplified my giddiness) and doubled my sad wardrobe in just a few excursions. I picked up a terrific backpack with all the bells and whistles. I arranged to get my immunizations and emergency antibiotics. Picked up a money belt, insect repellent, water purification tablets. I've never been so prepared for a trip in all my life, and well in advance too. Instead of scrambling before my departure, I've been peacefully downshifting from work mode to letting it all go. And all because I designated the trip as my happy distraction.

So even if you don't have a trip on the horizon, find whatever it is that can be your happy distraction. Even better if it's a productive one, like exercise or healthy cooking (and bravo to you if you can; I hope to be able to get to that point some day). Train yourself to go there whenever you feel your mind turning to the dark side. (As I type this I remember my last therapist recommending the same thing. It's a proven technique in cognitive behavioral therapy, so this isn't just mumbo jumbo I'm spouting here.)

Anyway, thought I'd share before I clock out and take the adventure of my own making on the other side of the world. 

Dismissed.

August 24, 2012

Walnut Heart


I'm not sure if last week's break up with Geek Rebel was the best decision somebody else ever made for me or if my heart has just shriveled up to a walnut-sized piece of hard resin. Either way, I seem to be bouncing back after being unceremoniously and unexpectedly dumped last Thursday night.

What happened? Well, if you'd asked me last Wednesday how things were going, I would've said, "Pretty good. We're still figuring each other out and hitting some bumps in the road while we're doing it. Like last weekend when we had a somewhat unsettling argument while trying to plan our first vacation together. We're both still a bit shaken up from the whole thing, but we talked it through, realized our various misunderstandings (mostly on his part, he would agree) and moved on at least enough to book all of our hotels for our two-week Canadian Rockies vacation."

Shows you what I know. The next night he showed up at my front door, holding a stack of my DVDs and his copy of my house key, already detached from its ring for swift handing-over. 

I felt weird that whole afternoon, even though he and I had communicated the same as always all that week. I went to a movie on Thursday night with a friend and was thinking about him the whole time because the movie was really good ("Searching for Sugarman," wonderful documentary) and I knew he would've enjoyed it. I wished he had been there with me and I thought, why not tell him so? I've never been the “spontaneous drop-by visit” kind of girl (there I things I just don't want to find out with an unannounced visit) but I thought, after our argument, it would be a nice gesture to go out of my way to drive to his house just to give him a hug and tell him I missed him. 

But I was nervous as I was driving there. I didn't even know why. I called him when I was about one minute away and he didn't answer; strange for 9pm on a weeknight. When I got there, all of his lights were on and I could see his computer monitor lit up through the window. Clearly he’d been home within the last few minutes. I normally just let myself in with his security code but it didn't feel right so I rang the doorbell. His dog barked but he never came. I waited, rang again. I could see his car was gone from the garage. Now it's really weird because, I can assure you, this guy rarely left his house on the weekends, let alone a weeknight (just one of the many red flags I chose to set aside.)

I took a deep breath, sent him a casual "stopped by to give you a hug" text and drove home. On the way I thought, "Wouldn't it be weird if he was at my house waiting for me?" Since I knew that he is also not the spontaneous drop-by kind of person, this thought held no giddiness for me. 

About two minutes after I got home, my doorbell rang. There he was, looking distressed, but mostly unable to look me in the eye. "What are you doing here?" I asked, trying to ignore my sinking stomach.

"I came to break up," he said as he handed me the stuff in his hand, seeming like he's ready to turn around and go home, having said the only words he felt were his duty to say. I felt otherwise.

"Why?" I asked in almost a whisper, holding the door half-open.

All he could muster was "We don't fight well."

"But we're just figuring each other out," I said, still not quite believing this was happening. He muttered something about us not having the time to figure it out, an obvious reference to my ticking biological clock. We're both about to turn 40 and he wants kids too, but apparently only with someone who will never, ever argue with him in an emotional manner, which I do on occasion. Meanwhile, there are about five or six red flags about him that have been taking up space in the back of my mind, and they're pissed as hell about being ignored for the last eight months, especially after he took me out of the game after one offense (that I know of, and one that I still think is bullshit).

But I said none of this. All I could say was, "You have my bike." Back to the perfunctory. He said he would return that and my other stuff and take care of all the vacation cancellations. I closed the door and sat at my desk in numb silence, walnut heart barely beating.

He dropped the stuff off a few days later, clearly trying to just leave it at the door. But my dog barked and I thought I'd open the door just to make his life a little bit uncomfortable since I'd had to sit for a few days with what was still an unexplained dumping (not to mention a canceled vacation that I desperately needed after working two jobs for two years straight). Again, he could barely look at me and I stood there, watching him unload stuff from his car, his whole body tense and awkward. Finally I said, "Aren't you even going to talk to me?"

Mumble, mumble. I'm still processing or something like that. I replied "Well, at least you know what's going on." And then he left.

Cue the anger, followed by a deep, calm sadness that truly scared me.

Two days ago he sent me an email saying that my last comment made him realize he probably should offer me an explanation, even though he doesn't really have to. But he's such a nice guy he'll do it so I don't suffer.

I paraphrase of course because I only skimmed it and can't bring myself to read it again. There was something in there about me raising my voice (which I do when I get emotional, something I've worked very hard to improve upon and something I've done maybe twice since we've been together. And trust me, if he thinks I was yelling last weekend, he wouldn’t have lasted two seconds with me in my 20s). Apparently he wouldn't want to bring a child in to a home where someone raised their voice. His family, while lovely, are quiet WASPs. My people are Jews. Yelling, angry Jews.

There was more, I think. But what's the point in absorbing it? I am just about the best version of myself I’ve ever been and worked damn hard to get here. I know he can’t say the same about himself (another cluster of red flags there). And after seeing the wimpy way he went about erasing me from his life, there was no going back even if he did seem inclined to want to talk things out. All those red flags I'd shoved away were whipping in the wind, smacking me across the face at every chance they got. I don't blame them. 

I'm mad at myself for how readily I handed myself over to the next kind, intelligent man who seemed to "get" me, even though he had so many of the same character traits that I'd determined, after Wine Guy and Only Child, I would never tolerate again. Those traits are my relationship kryptonite. Still, it's hard to reconcile the man who turned his back on me so quickly with the one who'd been so loving and thankful for my presence in his life only one week earlier.

But after a few days of bleak misery, I'm starting to see the light of life again. I'm back to my glorious "me time," which is fine since I am my favorite person to be with these days - probably because I barely have anyone to hang out with (except my dog of course, and she is the best companion/friend I've got). But I'm working on that because, well, I am not a wimp. Life must be lived – even if you don’t have a husband and a baby to post about on Facebook every day. 

Oh, did I tell you it took me about three days post-dumping to book my dream vacation to Vietnam? I leave in two weeks. 

Dismissed.

May 23, 2012

Dreams of Obama - The Neurotic Edition


I know you want to know about how things are going with Geek Rebel. I’ve sat down to offer an update on several occasions, only to give up after deciding what I’d written was entirely uninteresting to anyone but….well, anyone. 

Basically, I’m happy. We’re chugging along. Occasionally he’ll do or say something that triggers in me a shitload of baggage from relationships past. Or I’ll trigger something from his past. We’re almost 40 – it’s expected. But we always end the unpleasantness with a calm, thoughtful conversation about what happened, each taking some portion of the blame and coming out of the conversation a little closer to each other. No shouting, maybe a few tears (from me, more than I’d prefer). I think that’s how it’s supposed to work, right? Who the fuck knows. The point is, we’re good. What else do you need to know?

But tonight I write after spending my evening with some terrific company, the women of the Slate DoubleX podcast. (I spend a lot of time hanging out with the Slate writers and editors – at least in my earbuds—and they make the best company for long dog walks, household chores and commutes to work. Check out Slate's podcasts. I'm just discovering DoubleX, but what I've heard so far has been excellent. My favorites are the Culture Gabfest and Spoiler Special. Basically, if Dana Stevens is there, you're golden.)

On this particular podcast, the women were discussing an excerpt from a new Obama biography that was recently published in Vanity Fair. The excerpt focused primarily on college-age Obama as boyfriend material, using letters exchanged between young Barry and several girlfriends. If you’d asked me yesterday what I wanted to know most about Obama, I would have answered something along the lines of, what kind of boyfriend would he be?

I started having dreams about being Barack's mistress during the last presidential campaign. Note that I didn’t call them "sex dreams." I wish my subconscious would grant me some respite from my everyday neuroses. Nope. In this reoccurring dream I’m his mistress -- and Michelle knows all about me.

I love Michelle. Even more, I love watching Barack and Michelle together. That's what inspired me to wonder (perhaps fantasize) about him as a romantic partner in the first place. From this side of things, he looks pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, I never get the chance to find out. In my dreams, our romance is merely implied. You see, the Barack of my dreams respects women. He wouldn’t have some hussy tucked away in a brownstone. If he were going to have an affair, it would be a with a woman he respected. Therefore, I attended public functions. I went on family vacations. If anyone asked, they would say I was a good friend of the family. I was expected to interact with Michelle and the girls accordingly, and they the same with me.  Under any other circumstance, I would relish the chance to hang out with the Obama girls --but not while playing the part of the home wrecker.

It’s a miserable, stressful night sleep. I agonize over what the girls thought of me or how much my presence might be hurting Michelle. And deep down I dread the moment when someone in the press corps finally thinks to ask, “Wait, who is that white girl again?”

I’ve had this dream several times and I suspect I might be in for another soon. But maybe, just maybe, some of what I heard on the podcast today will seep in to my clearly self-loathing subconscious and give me a taste of what sounds exactly like the kind of guy I would’ve wanted to crawl all over in my early 20s: overly intellectual and overcompensating as only a young, male Ivy Leaguer can be, but also the kind of guy who lounges around on a Sunday morning doing the New York Times crossword puzzle while shirtless and draped in a sarong. Yeah, it’s documented. 

As Liz Lemon would say, I Want To Go To There. 

By the way, I'm not the only one who dreams of Obama, as evidenced by the blog, I Dream of Barack: Real Dreams People Have of Barack Obama (apparently now defunct, with a new site, I Dream of Obama, on the horizon).

Dismissed. Good dreams to all!

March 5, 2012

Not Bad News

Since my return to singlehood, I've been hoping that my dating life would heat up enough to revive this blog as something entertaining (to you and me) instead of a live journal where I process my various "realizations" and setbacks. (I'm sure you've loved all the bitching and moaning as much as I've loved living it.) I started a few profiles on different dating sites. Even went on a few one-date-wonders, but I just couldn't muster up the casual, playfulness that such a pursuit requires. 

At first I thought, correctly, that I needed more time to be nothing but single. But then I just realized I didn't have it in me to play the game. Any games, actually. I guess I just can't seem to find the humor in the situation anymore.

But before you think I'm going to start yet another mopey, introspective post, I do have some good news. I actually met someone I like. Let's call him Geek Rebel because that is exactly what he is. And a proud one at that.

I've been wanting to write about him for awhile now but, to be honest, there was never a moment -- from the instant I read his profile on OK Cupid-- that I didn't think about him as a serious contender. And, well, I didn't (and still don't) want to taint him with some flippant remarks I tapped out on my keyboard way in the beginning. 

So I'll give you the broad strokes, starting with the huge elephant in my theoretical room. There are huge swathes of his identity that one could, if they were so inclined, say are exactly like Wine Guy. Oh who are we kidding. I say they're exactly like Wine Guy. But so far they're only the pieces of Wine Guy that I deeply admired, and still do: he's breathtakingly brilliant, a good cook, ultra liberal politically, a near-militant feminist, and very close with his pet (in this case, a dog instead of a cat; less worrisome, no?). He's also a computer programmer, owns the same set of high-end knives and kitchenware, went to college on the East Coast and is a voracious reader. 

You'd have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to make the comparison and, yes, it freaks me out even if he, so far, doesn't show any of Wine Guy's infuriating qualities, most of which I kept off of this blog out of fairness, and will continue to do so. But let's just say that all evidence to date shows that Geek Rebel can finish what he starts. And, as my mom was quick to ask, he has a very good relationship with his father (regular readers will know how significant this fact is after Wine Guy and Only Child).

When I read his profile I knew I had no choice but to email him, something I'd stopped doing because, well, the results are usually dismal. But there was something so honest, sincere and clever in what he wrote (and he clearly took time to do it) that if even 20% of it were actually true, he'd read my profile and feel just as compelled to respond. I wrote him two sentences, "Put simply, I love your profile. If you like mine as well, let me know."

He responded quickly and did the right thing by suggesting we meet right away rather than build expectations through prolonged email exchange. Good move. Once we got the drinks date on the calendar, we proceeded to exchange lengthy emails about books, film and other harmless though substantive observations. By the time we met, we were both quick to dismiss the formalities of strangers and just get to know each other as people. It's been that easy ever since.

Four dates, several hours long phone calls -  during which I always learn something utterly fascinating, many texts (normally a medium I detest) and one promising make-out session is the sum of our "relationship," yet I already feel like he is one of my closest friends. From what I can tell, he feels the same way. I have to admit that in all of my dating experience, this is entirely new. 

I want to get excited, but I've been through enough to know better. But his entrance into my life has already been disruptive for one key reason: when I'm alone, there's actually someone I'd rather be with -- and that is one scary place for me to be. Unless, of course, the stars are aligned in such a way that this might actually work.

Dismissed.

January 23, 2012

Introducing, Cleavage


While cooking dinner the other night, I had one of those random "aha!" moments – totally out of the blue and potentially life changing.

Image: Bosom Button http://www.bosombutton.com/
Not a product I've ever had the fortune to need.
But the image reminds me of Cleavage.
I think it started after I had an enjoyable chat on the phone with my friend, Cleavage. Cleavage and I met quite a few years ago -- actually the last time I set myself on a friend-making mission. Back then I was not a gimp, so I chose tennis (instead of beer) as my hobby (and the gut's showing it, believe me) and joined a league. Cleavage was one of my first matches and I could tell right away she would be fun to know as a friend. After a few matches and amusing netside chats, I made my move with the old "we should hang out sometime" line.

I know it's weird to describe trying to make a new friend as something akin to a guy scoping out a chick, but that is exactly how I see it (without the sex part). See, I've never been that kind of nervous when it came to dating as an adult. As an adolescent, well, that’s another story. In middle school I was totally boy crazy and, because 12 and 13-year-old boys are the biggest pussies on the planet, I had no choice but to do the work myself.

I orchestrated the moments I would pass him in the hallways. I knew where I would sit in proximity to him at lunch. If I needed a date to a dance, I did the asking. And I issued the appointments for post-dance, behind the locker make out sessions (one middle school boyfriend, who went on to become a notorious ladies man in high school, recently admitted that he broke up with me after a week or two because I scared him with my make out request. Apparently the girls back in his home state of Wisconsin were nowhere near as aggressive.)

By the time high school rolled around, the boys were starting to catch up and the ball was heading in to their court. Not that I was volunteering anymore. It only took a few weeks of high school for me to realize I was no longer in my comfort zone. The popular junior and senior boys immediately snapped up all the cute, blonde girls I was friends with in middle school. The skater dudes veered off to the far side of the quad to hang out with all the other skater dudes. The surfers talked nothing but waves, and ditching classes to catch waves. The stoners went under the bleachers, the cheerleaders were watching football practice. I wasn’t any of those things.

I ended up sort of floating in the middle - part jock, part honor student, part partier, and really pissed off at life. Boys at school just did not interest me. I had plenty of male friends, and even made out with a few, but all I wanted to do was graduate and get to college. Basically, if a boy was genuinely interested in me, I did none of the heavy lifting like I did in middle school. Needless to say, I graduated a virgin.

Back to Cleavage, who bought my line and has been my friend ever since.  Sadly, we never got to that "good friend" category because, a few months after we met, she starting dating a guy she met after I encouraged her to try online dating. They got serious fast. He moved in, they bought a house and got married.

I was there along the way but probably not like I would've been if we'd been single girlfriends just a little longer. It’s funny because the only reason this thought ever came to mind was because her husband came up to me one night during their courtship and said, "I feel kind of bad, DT.” I had no clue what he was talking about and asked him why. He responded, “I feel like I interrupted your and Cleavage's friendship.” I thought about it for a second and could see what he meant, but how can you begrudge somebody lifelong love and happiness? Besides, I liked him and was happy for them both.

Still, Wine Guy wasn’t all that comfortable hanging out with their circle of friends, which I understood (they were pretty heavy partiers). I didn’t have a lot in common with their group either. So Cleavage and I mostly saw each other every few weeks, sometimes months, for “girls night.” With no one else around, we always picked up right where we left off – and that’s how it’s been for the last five years.

And then, a few months ago, she invited me over and told me she's leaving her husband. A total shock to me. Apparently they'd been having problems and, even though I witnessed many of the incidents, I assumed they were perfectly happy. (That is one of my nastiest habits - assuming everybody else's life is supremely happy and "normal," and I'm the one who’s doing life “wrong.” But it doesn’t last long because, every six months or so, someone lays a whopper on me like Cleavage did and I’m reminded that nobody’s life is “perfect.”)

I was not happy to hear this news. I liked her husband and I'm pretty sure he liked me. And since I'd known them as a couple longer than I ever knew her, "they" were my friends. But after she laid it out all for me, I understood why she was throwing in the towel.

I'm not gonna lie. I was pretty damn excited to have a new single friend to hang out with. I remember how much fun we had hanging out, cracking each other up, flirting with boys in bars. I can honestly say I haven't done that since.

With a fresh marital separation and all the drama that entails, it's still too soon to dive in to manhunting, but we have put each other on the regular phone call rotation. It probably doesn't mean as much to her, but I currently have only one friend who meets that qualification and she lives 3,000 miles away and has a 3 month old baby to care for so, yeah, I'm jonesin' for some girl talk. Funny thing is, I loathe the phone. Avoid it at all costs (talking - not texting or emailing). But I have just enough patience for that one, gabby call per week. And now I have a standing appointment.

It was after our last appointment, while I walked my dog around the neighborhood, that I had my random "aha!" realization. After we hung up, I started making dinner and I suddenly said out loud, "So, I'm lonely." It wasn't a sad thought or anything negative at all. Just a statement of fact. I've spending a lot of time alone the last few months and, some of that time, I don't want to be alone. Those are the times I am lonely.

I sat with that a minute as I dredged my chicken (I can't believe I just typed that as I am so new to cooking). With the meat sizzling on the pan, I stepped away to the dining room table and had a second, less random thought.

I am lonely. But I'm also happy.

Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that I could be both.

So, Cleavage and I are meeting up on Saturday night for dinner, cocktails and a horror movie. I haven't done that in decades. In a few more months, maybe we'll take our friendship to the next level and go out and flirt with some boys. I've told her of my plan, saying, "With your blonde hair and big boobs, we're gonna get so many guys!"

She laughed heartily and enthusiastically, showing me she was neither offended nor uninterested in my proposal. That, my friends, is a girlfriend.

Dismissed.


January 15, 2012

Bland Beer

Here's what happened on my visit with Beer Guy last weekend. I went into it with friendship as my expectation-- and a dash of potential for something more. By the time I entered his home and set the chips and salsa I brought down on the kitchen counter, I knew this would be a relationship with no extra spice.

After giving me a friendly hug, the first words out of his mouth were, "The reason I disappeared for a few months was because I got pretty hot and heavy with someone soon after we met." That much I'd figured. Then he added, "But she broke up with me on New Year's Eve." Ah. I was going to be the shoulder for leaning. 

Honestly, that disclosure let me loosen up and we ended up spending the entire afternoon on his deck, drinking beer and swapping romantic mishaps. I was holding back the "buddy" stuff at first, thinking it couldn't hurt to leave a little room in case something in the ether shifted. But the more he told me about his relationship with his most recent ex --a relationship he clearly still longed for--I was pushing him further and further into the passive, possibly wimpy category and, as I've discussed already, those qualities are no longer on my checklist for potential partners. 

It seems she was passive aggressive, needy and extremely immature. And he wasn't even trying to paint her in a bad light. He clearly still wanted her back and was just describing the relationship to me. Hearing this elicited the same reaction I have when the protagonist in a movie is in a relationship with an obviously horrible person. I know we're supposed to be rooting for them to find happiness elsewhere, but all I can think is, "What an idiot. Why would they be with this person in the first place?" I have a hard time respecting someone who is willing to put up with such awful behavior just to be in a relationship. (The most recent example I can think of is the relationship between Owen Wilson and his bitch of a girlfriend Rachel McAdams in "Midnight in Paris." But I still loved the film.)

The more Beer Guy told me about his three month excursion into "love," the more red flags popped up. This down-to-earth, nice-seeming guy seemed out of place, scared to be alone and obviously looking for someone to cling to. Maybe a few years back that would've appealed to me because, of course, I used to feel the same way. But no more.

Still, we had a pleasant afternoon of swapping stories and ended up going out to dinner as well. I'd hang out with him again. Like I said, I'm looking for people to pass the time with after too many days of being alone. But I don't think I'll pursue a regular friendship with him simply because I know that the moment he latches on to his next girlfriend (which shouldn't take too long, he's handsome, nice and owns a beautiful home with an ocean view), I know I'll be ancient history. 

I have to say, dating is a lot less painful when you aren't willing to sell yourself down the river just to say you have a relationship. More to come....

Dismissed.

January 5, 2012

The Yeast That Bonds

While 2011 had its low points, the year was a significant improvement from 2010. In addition to exiting a relationship that was running on fumes, I accomplished most of the goals I set for myself, including:

1. Building up a solid archive of published feature stories to advance my freelance writing career (I published one or more story every month, and talked to some incredible talent in the process).

2. Finally began healing after four years of pain and suffering; while I am not exactly where I'd hoped (and probably never will be), I'm at peace with my state of being and am embracing what I can do instead of lamenting what I can't. I'm also back to the weight I was when I first went under the knife in 2008.

3. Most importantly, I made some new friends.

While numbers 1 and 2 undoubtedly signify major life moments, the third easily took the most conscious courage and determination. If you think dating is warfare, try making new friends in your late 30s. At times it felt apocalyptic. At this point in life, the majority of people I'd be friends with are hunkered down in their bomb shelters: husband, kids, mortgages, in-laws. I can't even imagine how they juggle it all. I have two jobs, two pets and rental unit and I feel constantly overwhelmed.

After I'd moved into my new place and got past the euphoria of shedding the weight of a dead relationship, it became immediately clear that I had no friends. Wait, a clarification. I had no friends, other than Wine Guy, to casually hang out with. When it came to emotional meltdowns or family emergencies, I was blessed. I even had one or two women not saddled with husband/children in my social rotation but, being active women, they had full schedules. One date every couple of weeks does not a social calendar make.

I'm not opposed to alone time. In fact, I cherish it. But when it becomes the everyday routine, it doesn't feel like something worth cherishing. It's kind of like smoking pot. If you toke up every once in awhile, it's a kick. But once you start wake-and-baking, you're just living in a foggy brain. Nothing special about that. Trust me, I know.

A friend (one of my NEW ones, thank you very much) recently shared with me something she'd heard about introverts versus extroverts. We'd started to fill in our backstories and it soon became clear that she was, in fact, quite an introvert. Being that I have a blog where I spill my deepest, darkest, I think you can guess which one I am. She told me that introverts are energized by time spent alone, and being social -as fun as it can be-ultimately drains that energy. Whereas extroverts are energized by socializing with others and, while they might enjoy their alone time, it ultimately saps them. Having been in serious relationships with two introverts, I can testify that this is the most accurate description of the two types I've ever heard.

Desperate for a social charge, I decided to make my move. I have no problem suggesting a date with a potential romantic interest. But when it comes to establishing a female friendship, I feel like a 14-year-old boy at a middle school dance. I started with acquaintances who always seemed like they could be friends if one of us ever made the gesture. And that seemed to pay off, as it did with Introvert (whose boyfriend I also now count among my friends).

As with dating, I soon discovered there are only so many friends you can meet "in the wild," so I took my hunt to the online friend corral, Meetup.com. It's something of an overwhelming experience at first, trying to pick the activities you're interested in that might cough up some like minded friends. I settled on craft beer, something I'd become a little too knowledgeable about over the last two years, and also a really big thing here in San Diego.

The first beer meetup I went to was last summer at a local microbrewery where we had a tour of the facilities, followed by a ridiculous amount of tasters. I arrived a little early and found myself talking to a seemingly nice, normal man about my age who'd just moved here from Tennessee. Understand, I was not here to find a date and, as cute (and single) as he was, I was mostly excited by the fact that he had only lived here a few weeks, knew no one and, more importantly, had yet to discover the many terrific brewpubs tucked in all corners of the city. He clearly knew his beer and had a lot of free time so I was excited by the idea of having a companion to hit up the pubs I would visit more often if I had someone to go with.

I was careful not to monopolize his time throughout the event and made an effort to talk to other people. I didn't want him to think I was only there to snatch a guy - because I wasn't. But he was by far the most friendly person there so we ended up talking quite a bit. I had a great time and he seemed to as well. Eventually someone else started talking to him and then he left rather abruptly, which bummed me out a little.

But my spirits were lifted the very next day when he sent me an email through the Meetup site saying how nice it was to meet me. I wrote back saying the same and suggested we get together for some beer tourism the following weekend, to which he replied he was unavailable. I gave him my regular contact info and said to let me know when he was free.

When he didn't get in touch after a week or two, I grew irritated. There was no doubt that we hit it off as friends. I had something to offer him - local knowledge about an interest of his, as well as companionship (he made it clear he knew nobody in town). The only reason I could think that he wouldn't follow up was because he thought I wanted something romantic when he didn't. Exactly how the fuck are you supposed to make friends with someone who happens to be a man if you are going to be judged as some man-hunting cougar? So I went back to the Meetup site and joined an all-girl craft beer group, where I've made a few potential friend connections and, most importantly, avoided feeling like I'm on the prowl for something I'm not (unless an obvious opportunity presents itself, of course).

So you can imagine my surprise when I got an email from him earlier this week, almost six months since we'd last communicated. He commented that the beer Meetup seemed to have disbanded, implying he was hoping to run into me at the next event. But since there were no more events, he'd made up his mind to get in touch after the holidays. Apparently, someone gave him a Beer of the Month subscription for Christmas and, well, he needed help plowing through his supply. Might I want to get together? He even proposed a few possible dates and times which, I've learned, indicates purposeful intent in guy speak. Impressive.

So this Saturday afternoon I'll be on Beer Guy's deck toasting in the New Year. Hopefully he'll be yet another new friend (and one that I wouldn't mind kissing). I like beer better than wine anyway.

Dismissed.