Initiated

I started this blog thinking it would be about finding beauty in the physical, but it’s becoming something quite different altogether. And rediscovering music is becoming a huge theme. In my marriage, I had little say over the music that was played. At one point, we listened to mostly the same stuff. We loved going to concerts together, or walking down to the CD store in Little Italy to get a disc. We’d smoke a j and then listen to the entire album, while the most exciting part of our city wafted in through the windows. Music was something we bonded over, absorbing culture and curating our identities. We were shapeshifters, trying on new sounds, new feels.

I have an unapologetic love of pop music, which is not really what we listened to when we were together. But I recall a road trip where one of us made a CD called Pop Conversion (it must have been me), to convert him into a pop music lover. He was one as a child, but he became more cynical the older he got. In hindsight, it was the first hint of what was to come.

He listened to an alt-country band that I decided to hate and then actually came to hate. He played music that spoke to him, but it was increasingly isolating. Music was just one of the things we weren’t sharing with each other anymore, for whatever reason, and music became an emblem of the increasingly large crevasse that was splitting us apart.

But now, I have all this autonomy in my life. And while it comes at the price of a new loneliness, the songs are becoming my friends and lovers again, much like when I was a teen girl.


Currently, I have a few obsessions. One is listening to Broken Social Scene’s album “Hug of Thunder” daily. OBSESSED! It’s just filling this breezy gap in my soul right now and I want to fall into it, wrap it around me, like a duvet that’s just come out of the dryer. Check out the song “Gonna Get Better” right now. Their new vocalist, Ariel Engle, just kills me dead. I’ll wait.

Future’s not what it used to be
We still got to go there

So basically, I’m not sure if I’m ready for this dating stuff. The game has changed in 20 years. Or maybe it hasn’t but the technology that facilitates it has and now dating has become commoditized. It’s so easy to “shop” for humans. I don’t know who said it, but the person who likened it to a buffet where you don’t want to fill up on something you liked a lot, just in case there’s something better further down the table, was bang on. Most humans haven’t been taught an etiquette around dating in the new way, though one would assume common courtesy and sense would prevail. (You’d be wrong.) I think the old Christian rule works here, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” Or, in plainer, more atheist terms: imagine what it would feel like to hear, see or experience what you’re about to dish out and be nice.

Future’s not what it used to be
You are all whispers, all whispers
Just a whisper
If you can
Got to go there
Future’s not what it used to be
But we still gotta

So when a real life human reached out to me recently, when he held my hand and kissed me and made me feel desirable again—unsolicited, but welcome—I got rather smitten, rather fast. I knew him, he knew me. He would make the perfect Friend with Benefits. So I let myself imagine it, let myself get carried away. Became obsessed with the idea of him kissing me, of him being the one to pop my second cherry (I’ve been celibate for all of 2017). Became obsessed with idea of going to “cute places and artsy things”, going on bike rides, sending flirty texts. Somehow, in my mind, this person was not going to be my boyfriend. He was going to be my friend like he always was, but now we would kiss and go places together.

Except he never really texted, never made an attempt at a second meeting. Oh sure, he’d be enthusiastic after I would message him, but there were subtle tells. “How’s the hottest thing on the east side of the city doing tonight?” (DUDE—there are no boundaries to my hotness.) And also, the intention was to be charming, but something made me suspect that there was a hottest thing on the west side of the city too.

I was under no assumption that he wasn’t dating other people. But I wondered how that could be true considering the intensity that drove him to come onto me. He’d been thinking about being with me for a long time, and I naively assumed that the reason for that was about more than just sex. I felt I had nothing to lose, so I would wait a few days and then message to see if he wanted to see me. But suddenly, the tone of the texts changed. The pursuit seemed to be cooling off. What did I do wrong?

Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse, oh
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse
No they can’t get worse
Things are gonna get better

The thing is, it’s rarely about you, girl. It’s often about timing and says more about the other person. When we let anyone into the warehouse, we have to know that there’s a chance that this person may corrupt the ideas we are storing in there, may hurt us. And we have to be OK with it. But since I’m still recovering from a major blow to the heart, I don’t know if I’m ready to be THAT vulnerable again.


Anyway, I went camping and got back and hadn’t heard from him. Messaged days later with a “Friyay!” and asked for good luck with a bunch of job interviews and got an immediate response. But still. no. invite. Still using busy-ness at work as an excuse for not being in touch. I had given him my kid-free dates the week before and in a flirty text exchange he had said, “Oh, I’ll make time.” A shit-ton of emojis were sent. I was confused.

A colleague said I should ask him for a casual date on Saturday night. But when I did, I got a fuzzy response. Not quite a no and not quite a yes, a “maybe if I don’t do this other thing.” Looking back, I quickly fell into my old pattern from my marriage and convinced myself that this was par for the course, that I just have to be patient. His original message from that first night was loud and clear in my mind—he wanted me. And he wouldn’t mislead a friend, would he?

And don’t let them speak for you
And don’t let them speak for you
I can’t hear you
Tell me what you got to say
I can’t hear you

I had a glorious Saturday, but in the background was the humming of the desire to hear from him, to know whether I would see him. I’d shaved and changed my sheets and gotten myself into a horny tizzy. I went to yoga and felt better, but I was done mid-afternoon and realized I would not be getting a confirmation. So I decided to spend the rest of the day not speaking. I read for two hours in the bath and then read for two hours in the yard. I did not post on social media, but I checked my phone compulsively, only to be repeatedly let down by no message.

I finally finished Eat, Pray, Love and was better for it. In the final chapters, during the Love phase in Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert realizes that while she’s been celibate for over a year (and in that time gotten right with herself and learned to commune with God), she needed a drought buster. It was time for a rainmaker. Sex is an important part of the human experience. Pleasure is not something to feel shameful about. I heard it, loud and clear.

But what to do? I needed to get out of my head, so I messaged a friend and we went to a nearby bar to bitch. I have no problem filling my time and I know the most incredible women, but hanging out with all these beautiful ladies was not going to get me laid. It’s time! I need to explore myself through my body for a bit. I’m tired of talking.

Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse, oh
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse
No they can’t get worse
Things are gonna get better

I came home, tipsy and bitter. I could see he’d liked some things I’d posted on social media. I could see that little green motherfucking dot in FB Messenger that denotes when someone is online. He was there and saying nothing. So I called him on it.

I said I was new to this so apologies for the confusion. That I was going to back away slowly, because clearly I’d gotten the signal wrong. Reply? “No worries. Sorry that I’ve been so busy lately… yadda yadda…” But me drunky, so I replied too, with a playful scolding. “All good. Don’t expect much, just a considerate note so that I’m not waiting around wondering. We’re cool.” I got a “huge apologies” series of sentences. I turned off my phone and went to sleep.

Things are gonna get worse
Things will get better


What in actual fuck? We’re cool? Why did I say that? Because I didn’t want to come off as clingy or desperate? Because I didn’t want to mess up our friendship? Here’s the thing: It wasn’t cool. Any of it. It wasn’t the least bit considerate or polite. I just spent two decades dealing with poor communication. Why the fuck would I want to get dicked around like that again?

Except I woke up in the middle of the night, horny AF. And in the quiet of a house with no children, lying there on cool clean sheets, I asked myself what I needed and what I wanted. I just wanted to get the having sex with someone over with, at least as the consolation prize. And he was the one who put the thought in my head. And he seemed like the closest path to ticking that item off my divorce to-do list.

So I thought, “Why not just ask for what you want?” Well that was new.

I woke up the next morning and did exactly that, using Liz Gilbert words to ask for my drought to be over. And he came over right away and made it rain. Three times for me, twice for him.

It was hot. I had not had that kind of experience in the bedroom for a LOOOOONG time. But it was immediately apparent to me how inexperienced I am. For starters, you quickly realize you need some things around your bed, namely music, lighting, condoms, a trash can for the condom, etc. I lit a candle and chose a random playlist. I was as ready as I was going to be. But also, nervous, awkward. Holy fuck, I invited a man over for sex!

Well I can’t be the most of you
The temperature, once arose
I don’t know what you like
It’s gotta be
A photograph
You cannot believe a mouth
Who knows what they wanted
You cannot believe
Who knows what they want

The playlist was too romantic, too earnest for a booty call. The candle wasn’t the right smell. The trash can was in the bathroom. But I was good, this I know. Not my best, not even close, but good. There was a distance. A weirdness. A lack of honesty somewhere. I just wanted to know where I stood, but I dared not ask. Weeks before, when I’d asked if this was “a thing,” he had replied that it was totally a thing! And then he’d defined what kind of “thing” it would be. Clear. But everything since then was unclear. It was like it wasn’t the same person in my bed.

He was attentive and had clearly read the map to the secret treasure a few times. But something was way different than that first night of just making out. The romance was gone. This was emptier. Not completely, but enough that knowing what I know now, I can confirm my initial uncertainty. I asked for honesty, asked him to tell me what he wanted, but he held back, that was clear. I asked, “Why is it so hard for people to just be honest and upfront with each other?”

“I dunno. Fear?” he responded.

When the playlist got unbearable (I mean, I LOVE “Marry Me John” by St. Vincent, but it’s not a sex song), I asked him what music he’d like to hear and he deferred to me. I asked him about dating and he said there was no one really. He spoke of one relationship that fizzled due to fundamental differences in communication styles. Mm-hmm.

Then, when it was all over, while he was getting dressed, he said, “If you’re going to have more men down here, you may want to rethink your playlist. That was too intense.” Uh… thanks for the tip?
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse, oh
Things’ll get better
‘Cause they can’t get worse
No they can’t get worse
Things are gonna get better


I got weird too. I reflexively answered the phone when my ex called, because I panicked that they were headed to the house. Bad idea. Sometimes I am so comfortable being me that I miss social cues or common sense. I over communicate, over share. I’m not sure which style is worse.

Mid-week, me drunky again. So I message him on FB, “So, Sunday was fun… Can we do that again or just a one-off?” He immediately logs off. I woke up the next morning and could see he’d read it (stupid social media). Still no response. So I meditated. I danced to Bahamas while doing my hair. I rode my bike in the rain. This is what Taylor Swift might refer to as shaking it off.

Later that afternoon, a shite response.

“Good question! I had a really whirlwind couple of dates with a new lady the last few weeks and I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but it may be going serious. Can we hit pause for now and let me see how that plays out?

Your head in my heart
Your head in my heart
Head in my heart
Head in my heart
Head, heart
Head, heart

I am a bud. Just one of the guys. Who happens to be a hot woman with a fine ass. When I was younger, boys would lay with me, and want to hang out so I could make them laugh, but the girls who were OK to make themselves smaller were preferable to my loud, brash, open self. My ex treats me the same way. He flirts, makes it clear he’d like to sleep with me, but he doesn’t want to do the rest of the work to be with me. Here I am, in the same boat I was in my early 20s. Good enough to lie with, but not a lady enough to pursue romantically. Fuck it.

When I reflect upon it, I don’t actually believe that statement to be true. In fact, I deeply believe that the right person for me IS out there. And before I find him, I think that a pretty good person—a mensch who wants to be an occasional +1 and my lover—is out there for me, too.

I thought I’d be angrier about the note. I thought I’d feel more hurt and embarrassed. What I’m most surprised by is the incredible gratitude I feel for the lesson I learned. Mama waits for no man. Mama’s destiny is not defined by any one person. I am not a pair of ankle boots that are not quite a fit for your summer wardrobe and need storing until the fall.

This is the game now, and I’m not ready to spend my time playing it just yet. There are words to be written, and a warehouse space that I’m enjoying sprucing up. And small people who love me so much and that I worry I’m not doing a good enough job of being a mother for. I can fill my days easily. And this week, shark week, that’s enough to fill my bucket.

Docked

For the first several summers of coming to the Paradise Lake to camp, I stared at the floating dock. As the mother of two small children, I found myself tethered to the shoreline, staying close to the warm, shallow, pee-infested waters of the small bay.

All day, campers would squeal, giggle and splash, jumping off the dock, drying themselves in the sun, pushing each other off… always out of reach, 15 feet past the buoys that mark the point past which it’s no longer safe for weak swimmers to wade. I wanted to be up there, to be free, but the littles needed me. I let them push me around the bay in an inflatable dingy and built sandcastles until I got bored.


I finally made it, when the kids were in life jackets or had enough swimming lessons to make the trek. And those were glorious summers, beaching our exhausted bodies on the wooden planks, swatting horseflies to death, holding hands and plugging noses for running jumps off the boards, that mini moment of panic until the green water gave way to the light above.

One summer, when the girl child was attempting the dock swim for the first time without a life jacket, we took the inflatable dinghy with us as backup. It was breezy, and when I let go of it to grab the dock, the boat flipped over, trapping her underneath.

In those few moments, I panicked, imagining her sinking nine feet down like a stone. I called to her dad on the beach, but I got to the boat first. As I approached, I could hear her beneath the vinyl, legs and arms frantically treading—survival instinct. I got her safely to the dock and ignored the judging stares and comments of the other, more professional mothers.


We got to the lake this summer to find the beach had receded due to flooding and the dock gone. I had been looking forward to making the dock my bitch. But she wasn’t there. The other noticeable absence from this provincial park, which I consider my happy place, my forest home away from home, was the father of my children. A man who, until very recently, I considered the love of my life.

It’s been a year since he wielded the hammer on the second last nail of the coffin he was building for our marriage. Somehow, one horrible year behind me, I found the strength to pack and prep on my own, to get us up there (singing pop songs the whole way), using all that he’s taught me about camping. On a day when it was storming, I held him in loving kindness during a rare moment alone. I thanked him for all he’s taught me about living in the forest. And then I let him go a little bit more.


“Wish I was sharing a tent with you for a weekend,” said a text on Friday night. Someone’s lit a match to the kindling in my core. There’s no telling how big I’ll blaze once a beautiful birch log has finally lain on top of me. I spend my quiet moments in the tent, trying to imagine this. I can imagine the kissing, I can imagine what I’d like to happen next, but those images are vague. Trying to grab them is like trying to grab a wisp of campfire smoke.

There’s so much I don’t know. Does he cook? Is he squeamish about bugs? Can he build a fire? Does he even like me if he almost never initiates text conversations? A woman’s concerns are so often about security. But also, camping is sacred to me. The forest is where I shed my city self and allow myself to just be. That’s not something I’d willingly share with anyone ordinary.


To book a campsite in my region, one must plan five months in advance. This is how my life goes. I’m a woman and a single mom—there is little room for spontaneity. Little room for docks that just float and sometimes disappear. This year we jumped off the giant boulders on the side of the lake instead. I hoisted a canoe on the ancient stone and leapt into the abyss. And maybe that’s where I need to learn to play: at the junction of my strength and the unknown. Maybe I can get over my fear, my need for control and just jump. Perhaps the key is to give up on an ideal, to find lots of rocks to hurtle myself off of. Or realize there are lots of drops of water in the lake, and I can splash anywhere and any how I damn well please.

In the meantime, send me a hopeful thought the next time you’re roasting a marshmallow.

Blurgh

Mixed signals. Different expectations. Reading between the lines. This is what has fucked men and women up since women started to get a say in all this.

In our grandparents’ generation, women just played the hand they were dealt. You stuck it out with someone and the relationship (if it wasn’t abusive) was an operations team. Who ran the farm? Who raised the kids? Romance? Maybe.

Our mothers’ generation had a bit more choice. They had appliances, the dream of achieving perfection and Valium to help them survive marriages to men raised by PTSD war veterans. They had women’s lib and Roe vs. Wade. They had Petula Clark songs and grew up on a diet of Katherine Hepburn romances. Some of them got divorced. Many of them still relied on a husband’s income to make life happen. (Yes I am painting a heterosexual portrait here, I’m generalizing and writing what I know.)

But now here we are two generations later, with the financial means to make choices, and we have been fed a steady diet of be skinny and hide your smarts and if you are lucky you will find your prince! Take your small nose and your perfect boobs (and ass) and ride them all the way to a neighbourhood full of Audis and Subarus, Pilates and yoga, mojitos and girls nights and spa trips, dad bods and date nights and cottages on the water.

You too can be Meg Ryan or Jennifer Aniston, but not after fifty, because who wants to see that? Snag the prince before the clock turns 12, Cindy! Before your last fuckable day!

And I wonder why I’m a spaz about dating?

*********************

I wrote that last night, upset because my anticipated date, which maybe never was a date, didn’t happen. I was ok with the date not happening, because there are loads of reasons for that, but I kind of felt like I was left hanging. In a typically female way, when I read, “I will let you know in a couple of hours” at 5pm, I expect an answer that evening. Or at the very least, the next day when the date was meant to happen.

Anyway, I won’t get into further detail about things I’m discovering in this new world of maybe sorta dating, like the green light in FB Messenger (something I’ve paid ZERO attention to previously). But I made the best of it and went for manis and drinks with friends.

I woke up this morning, feeling like I needed a zing. And zing! My phone was alight with messages from another old friend/colleague man, who is super fun and super hot. A bit nutty and drinks and smokes too much for my taste, but totally good for a debaucherous night that could end up… zing!

Then on the way to work, stewing about my shite day yesterday, where I failed to smash the patriarchy in that job interview, zing! The first man I’ve gone on a date with in two decades, a dude I met on an app, sends me pretty photos from his Mediterranean vacation. Zing!

So what I’m trying to say is, while some of this is total donkey balls, it’s also kind of fun. I don’t need any of this to go anywhere. I just want to be treated with respect and courtesy. If you want my sunshine to shine down on you (and it’s some damn fine sunshine if you can earn it) then make an effort. I am looking for a feminist fuck buddy. And the only prerequisite is that you treat me nice (oh and truly believe women deserve equal rights). But I am realizing that it’s going to take a lot of auditions before someone has the good fortune to land this part. And that’s ok, because God invented battery powered devices for a reason.

I don’t need you, make me want you. Be a mensch. Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Make me feel like the queen that I am. Let’s go to cute places and do artsy things and I will make you feel like the king that you are. I’m not ready for someone to govern the kingdom with me… yet. But I’m not ruling out the possibility either.

Love me now (like it’s all I have)

So there’s a new boy in my life. Well, a new-old boy. Someone I’ve known. Someone who would pop into my thoughts from time to time, but now I. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Him. Sigh.

It’s actually, rapidly becoming a problem, because I don’t know if I want this – the thought stream. I want the boy. I want his hands on my body and his mouth on mine. I’d like to see him with his clothes off. But I do not want to see myself like this. Needy. I don’t want to become infatuated. I don’t want to overthink everything, or get too far ahead of myself. Because that’s not solving this problem that I’m on a journey to solve. The goal right now is “I gotta get right with me.”

But today, while meditating, I realized that this, too, is a lesson. Because constantly checking your phone to see if someone has texted, or updated his Facebook, or liked your Instagram photo—it’s the same nutty, distracted thought pattern that occurs with all social media. It’s a form of seeking external validation and also has to do with impulse control. You are bored, or uncomfortable, or just not liking yourself for a moment (you may not even be conscious of this), so you flip to social media (or if you’re on a desktop, one of the 376 tabs you may have open). “Let me see what everyone is doing,” you think. Or, worse, you’ve posted something and then it’s, “Let me see who likes/loves me,” you think.

You need that zing, because we are all addicted. Our brains are wired such that we often get addicted to some kind of zing: that 2 p.m. coffee, the after work drink, picking at your cuticles, buying something with Amazon 1-click, binging something on Netflix when you know you should exercise or sleep. I’m currently reading/listening to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and the key, according to the book, is to replace bad/unproductive habits with good ones. You’ll never really change the impulse, but you can change the action using a system of cues and rewards. Let’s park this for a moment.

Then I read this today, after it came through my Medium email and Kris Gage totally nailed it. Most of what we think is love is bullshit. It’s us trying to love ourselves using outside influences, rather than work through the shit in our minds and learn to love ourselves from within. Those who have reached enlightenment will say that it’s because we don’t really know what we are. That because we fill our lives with noise and don’t make time to let the divine in, and as such, we can’t truly understand just how loved we are, right from the source.

I find the idea of divine love very appealing, frankly, and I don’t care how crazy-Oprah-woo that makes me seem. Because I don’t mind being vulnerable. I’ve spent my whole life trying to beat everyone to the punchline. I am learning not to mind being judged. How I choose to experience and perceive this life is up to me. And how I feel about me is up to me, not due to anything anyone else says. But this takes PRACTICE.

The new-old boy and I have had just one date (that I didn’t even know was a date), so really, when I feel like texting, “Just had jerk chicken and thought of you,” that’s just me looking for a bit of something to boost me up. That’s me seeking a, “You’re so hot” text in return. I mentioned my current obsession to my friend and unofficial guru, Dr. X, today, to which she smartly replied, “Don’t be infatuated. Take each moment, each happening in the present moment. Stay grounded and enjoy.” Awesome. Great. But how?

So this week, I’m going to work on that. Every time I start to check my phone to see if I got a bite on my last cast of the line in the lake, I’m going to take a moment to love myself instead. It’s gonna take a mantra of some sort. Something like, “I offer myself kindness.” Or, “I offer myself love.” It’s certainly no crazier than checking my phone 1000 times a day to try to get a little lift in my mood. Or, I’m going to come here and write until the urge to be loved by others passes. Because writing, for me, is loving myself. It’s tipping a respectful hat to who I am, feeding my passion, grounding myself in the present by synthesizing my thoughts. And heck, it seems like a good habit to replace the bad one.

Besides, we have date #2 pencilled in for later this week. And this one, I am completely sure, is a date. Which will lead to more snogging. Oh god, here we go again…