Show me, show me, show me

I’m watching Lovesick on Netflix and feeling this final season intensely. Like the show just got good halfway through the last season. Mostly because the lothario, Luke, finally gets a soul. Do you watch the show? It’s British show about some roommates/friends and the messy relationships they get in and out of. No one on the show is particularly accomplished career-wise, and the main love interest, Dylan, is a bit one-dimensional. He’s needy and pouty and I don’t get why Evie loves him. But the Luke storyline really gets me.

None of this has anything to do with the fact that I went on another three dates this weekend. Except it does. I think the main theme of Lovesick is trying to understand why the heck we are so obsessed with the idea of love. Why is it elusive? Why do we AGONIZE over it? Why can’t we get this right?

I am in overthinking zone again. As I have ZERO CHILL, I wasn’t very patient about Mr. Saturday Night at all. After some weird texts about the weather during the week, (and one text where I was hoping he was on my side of town so I could steal him for a drink), there were still no date invites or inquiries into my time. I caved and sent a “Friday!” Because, hello, it’s been two weeks, and I truly DID want to see him again. I wanted to know if the magic I felt on the previous date still held.

Also, since we’re being truthful and all-revealing here, because I really need to sleep with someone who is not Ali already, so I can gracefully exit that which does not feed me.

Anyway, I’m kind of mad at myself, because if “Fuck yes, or no” applies, then I should have just chilled out. Because he’s not in the “Fuck yes!” camp. I’m getting vibes, but they are not clear.


Compare that to 27. 27 is adorable and charming and eager to hang out. He messaged me mid-week wondering what I was up to, and I decided to invite him to see some French cinema with me. I had wrongly assumed that he was a cinema guy—he was not. But he was eager to hang and joined me anyway.

The short films were bizarre but endearing, early feminist New Wave cinema. Right up my fucking alley. I was curious about the director, and so thrilled I went. When you’re a mom, going to see a film that is not a Hollywood blockbuster feels really frivolous. I mention this to 27, how I love the deliciousness of anyone who gives their life to art, and how experiencing it is akin to what eating caviar must feel like for some. He shrugs in his young man of privilege way and acknowledges that he may not have money or career stability, but he’s wealthy in time. Sigh. 27.

He holds my hand in the movie and has his hand on my knee. His palms get sweaty. And as soon as I know the final short is over and we have maybe 30 seconds of darkness, I lean in and kiss him. But it’s meh. No spark.

We walk for a good half hour. It’s too cold to hold hands. He tells me he likes heavy metal and I tell him that one of the things about being in your 40s is that you realize, “I’m probably never going to like heavy metal.” His first Radiohead show would have been my fourth or fifth. In the 16 years between us my entire adult life happened. We part ways at the subway and kiss again. My takeaways are that I like boys who hold my hand and make their desires clear through body language, but who go slow and respect my need for pacing. I decide he is voted off the island and delete him from my spreadsheet when I get home.


I have a spreadsheet and a document. Both are called Project Equal. In them I document what I learned from each date. I am gathering my requirements for the ultimate project: finding my equal. I am listening to my gut and learning what I want and need. What are must-haves, nice-to-haves and deal breakers.

I have watched Amy Webb’s TED talk on winning at online dating via creating your algorithm. It makes sense to me, though I don’t agree with her scoring system. I decide I will give each human two dates, unless the first one goes HORRIBLY wrong (don’t worry, that story is coming), because the first date can sometimes be misread. People can be off their game. Also the second date allows you to confirm if your gut was right.

 

Anyway, Project Equal deserves its own post, because it should have holes poked in it by you, fair reader. So let’s just leave it for now and come back to it later in the week, k?


So, “Friday!”

A bit of vague and flirty exchanges happen. I’m not being direct because I’m hoping he will make the move, but that’s not his style. He wants me to be clear. He pulls it from me slowly. When I finally say, “I’m busy tonight, but free Saturday and Sunday,” he finally asks, “What would you like to do tomorrow night?” If he wasn’t into me he’d say he’s busy, right?

Oh god, he finishes his points with, “Right?” a lot of the time and it makes my stomach dizzy just thinking about it. 

So I answer, “Cosy bar and continued conversation for starters? Preferably with an actor/historian/museum curator…”

“Sounds great, I hope you mean me.”

I DO mean him. I adore that he’s a slash. Actor-slash-historian-slash-museum curator. In fact his deep passion for his work is one of the sexiest things about him. Did I mention actor? He also happens to be gorgeous.

We make plans to meet on my side of town. It’s like tourism for him.


I am in the bar and awkwardly trying to decide if I should just sit at the window bar or wait to be seated, when I see him. My heart does a little flip flop but way under the waistband of my jeans.

I was hoping to have my sheets out of the dryer and my bed made, the house tidied before this date, just in case. But when it became clear that my bed would be covered in laundry, I changed out of my best dress into jeans and one of my favourite tops.

I’m aware that nothing may come of this. But I also don’t want to blow it. I throw out all my own advice about always being yourself and being confident. I’m not confident about this AT ALL. “Don’t be a dork Maria,” I tell myself, but tonight teenage Maria decides she’s driving. He crosses the street like James Dean, wearing a black leather jacket. He walks in and we kiss on the mouth, a sultry peck, as though this is how we always greet each other.

Again, we talk for three hours straight. My head is swimming when I’m with him, because he’s a walking encyclopedia. I learn a few things beyond our city’s history too, about exes and family and health. He asks thoughtful questions and at some point I’m acutely aware that I’m looking at him the way I looked at Jude Law one evening in London.

(Allow me this sidebar: I was sitting out back on St. Martin’s Lane in 1999, after just seeing Cate Blanchett in Plenty, writing in my journal about the experience, when good ol’ Mr. Gattaca walked past and I was gobsmacked. I’d spotted him in the audience that evening and paid 45p for binoculars to get a better look, but now here he was, three feet from me! Jaw on the ground, he noticed my face, waved and said hello.)

This is kind of how I imagine I’m looking at Mr. SN when he talks about Stalin or the mother of his child. He is magic for me, a curious mind who loves to be a sponge. Part of me wants him to be bossy, to teach me. He’s only 6-7 years older than me, but there’s something statesmanly about him. Every hair on my body is standing on end as I think about him.

My brain is at war. “Stop looking at him like you want him to kiss you,” is battling against, “Send strong kissing vibes so he knows to move in.” The music is awesome tonight, 80s New Wave, ska and alternative predominantly, and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” comes on and I’ve never wished for a kiss so hard. But it’s too obvious. He’s the master of moments, or so I suspect because of his theatre background. So regardless of what I do with my body language, he is not moving in, and I am forced to behave and heave with anticipation. He’s storytelling about storytelling and I’m enthralled. He makes the sign of the “come hither” with his hands, but it’s in context to what he’s saying (“You won’t believe what happened next…”) and I make a note to work on including that move in my seduction if I ever get the chance.

“I’d bet his hands would feel nice on your boobs right now,” says my teenage alligator brain.

Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream she said
The one that makes me laugh she said
Threw her arms around my neck
Show me how you do it and I’ll promise you
I’ll promise that I’ll run away with you, I’ll run away with you

Finally, he says, should we go? Or something to that effect. We split the bill, he offers to drive me home. He wears these hot glasses to drive and I am LOSING it, people! He drives a station wagon, which is so my jam, and I don’t even realize what a massive dork I’m being. Because, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!


We banter about the neighbourhood. He’s so lost, but I guide him to my curb. Do I invite him in? Well no. The house is a mess and I have my period, and I am striving for “start as you mean to continue,” except I’ve started as a horny teenager.

I don’t say any of this out loud and we comfortably chat in the car until horny teenager wins and I lean way over to him and say, “Well you are cute and charming, thanks for a great evening,” and I kiss him. We bonk noses first (because, of course), and then French a bit, but I’m not being mindful at all. I’m a nervous bunny and my heart and brain think that Morrissey is still playing and they are at the Dance Cave. I clumsily break away, say, “Ah, I’ve been wanting to do that ALL NIGHT!”

“All night, hmm,” he replies with a devlish grin. I say an awkward goodnight and run up the stairs, because I’m teenage Maria who has NO GAME.

I woke up this morning thinking, “God! You were terribly presumptuous! Nothing about his body language said you should kiss him. You should have asked first. You should text him and acknowledge that maybe you crossed a line.”

Other side of the brain, “What?! He kissed you back! Isn’t that sign enough? STOP overthinking it!!”

I last until 10:30 am before texting him. No. Response. All day. Which means nothing. I know he had a super busy day. But gah! Did I fuck this up? Do I want to be doing this to myself? Is any man worth this? Am I never going to be able to date because I can’t get my brain to shut the fuck up?

My ex, whom I keep swearing I’m never going to have a dating conversation with ever again, chastises me when I try to get his take. “Play it cool! We’re not 25. Dudes like to chase! Let him chase you!” But that’s a fucking game and I don’t want to play. I just want to be authentic, I just want to be me with my guard down and lay it all on the table, but I have so much more practicing to do. I decided today that whatever happens, happens. One moment at a time. Slow down. You don’t have to rush it. Patience. Patience.

Patience.

“Fuck yes, or no.” I’m firmly in camp “Fuck yes” here. But is he? And if he isn’t, well, shrug, I have to let it go. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me two enchanting evenings of story sharing. I do sincerely hope it’s not over yet, I have so many more questions to ask him. If it’s a go to the next round, I’m going to take a break from dating others for a bit to explore this one, slowly. I want to do this mindfully. I want to savour this feeling.

You
Soft and only
You
Lost and lonely
You
Strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You’re just like a dream
You’re just like a dream

 

My gap year

I saw Ali again. He messaged me after a week away (and forgetting to mention he was working in another province for a week). He got back and realized that he’d just missed my free weekend and was bummed. I was high off my date with Mr. Saturday Night and didn’t feel like indulging him for shit, and yet who knew how MrSN was gonna go? I want to occasionally break one off (or four) as much as the next girl, and Ali is so damn good at making me feel like a goddess. I told him I could maybe find some time and would let him know.

After I made the mistake of inviting MrSN to a late-April event too soon (I’m the consummate planner and this can hurt me as much as help), as much as I wanted to give him my rare free Sunday, he never asked so I left it. Plus, I really do love hanging out with Ali, I just don’t love the long silences in between. I want a daily little zing on my phone, or every few days at least, but Ali can put me on the shelf for far too long for my liking. There’s something about being a considerate partner, one who knows to check in every few days, or just help the cadence along with a “saw this and thought of you” or a “you crossed my mind in a meeting, so just saying hi.” I reluctantly told Ali he could have my Sunday but we needed to DO something other than just shag, because frankly I feel empty when our encounters are only X-rated. To my joy, he agreed with me.

But as the date grew closer, it was clear he had planned nothing. His mind was on the A+ sex (and who could blame him?), but I really want to be treated like more than a plaything, this much I now know. “Will everything be closed for Easter?”

“Looks like you have your homework cut out for you,” I retorted, with a winky face to take the bitchiness out of my text. God! Do some work! Why am I always with men who don’t want to make the effort for me?


My fucking ex told me over Easter brunch that he took his date dancing to new wave music and it took every ounce of energy for me not to reach across the table and poke him with a knife covered in hollandaise sauce. We’ve been chatting casually about our dating lives, which feels good and also weird. But on Sunday, we did the Easter egg hunt at his place and then went for a walk and took the kids out for brunch and all was fine! For the good of the kids, and all that. Until he quietly mentioned that he’d been on his third date in a week with a woman and took her dancing the night before.

Then I was wrecked. Would it have killed him to take me dancing on occasion? He knew how much I love to dance. It’s appalling how little effort it would have taken to make things better with us, effort that he REFUSED to do. Then the wound opens again. “He didn’t love you like that,” it whispers. “He didn’t want to love you like that. He couldn’t love you like that. He didn’t have the capacity to love you like that. He said it over and over and you didn’t want to believe it. Just accept it and let go.”

Because of the Easter parade in his neighbourhood, we came back to my house and they all piled on the couch to watch TV. I had made the aforementioned plans with Ali, because—if I’m honest—having intense sex with him numbs my brain and also makes me feel like I’m rebelling somehow. Like if I fuck Ali for four hours then I’m somehow getting back at Theo. Which the rational part of my brain knows is not true, but the teenage/alligator part of my brain wants to believe is the antidote to feeling sad about how my marriage went out.


My first sexual relationship was like this too. He was terrible for me. Everyone knew it and I knew it too but somehow I was determined to see it differently. I remember cruising downtown on a Saturday night down the city’s main street, passing a median where cute boys were standing and when our car got stopped in the bumper to bumper traffic one yelled out to me, “Hey are you Manny Rodrigo’s girlfriend?” Why yes, I exclaimed, excited that Manny was telling people about me. The boy looked at me and smirked, and just as our car started rolling again, yelled, “He cheats on you ALL THE TIME!”

It was 1992 and skinny eyebrows were all the rage. Linda Evangelista, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington… all the supermodels of the era were sporting them. I was 18 and fashioned my look on Madonna’s Erotica, sporting crop tops with men’s pants and berets and very skinny eyebrows. I came down for dinner one night and my father reprimanded me for making my brows so skinny. “It’s the style,” I argued, “You don’t know anything about FASHION!”

madgeskinnybrows

“You look like a whore.”

I was so mad. What the fuck did he know? I was 18 and newly sexual and did he know how lucky he was to have a daughter who only had one sexual partner at 18? If he thought he had a whore for a daughter, I’d show him. So I drove to see Manny and fucked him silly, putting on my best whore performance.

I know that didn’t hurt my father, because it’s not like a sent him a VHS tape of the event. I also know that having sex with “He cheats on you ALL THE TIME” with no condoms and just birth control pills was fucking stupid (I was SO DAMN lucky it’s not even funny). Just like I know that shagging Ali on Sunday for four hours wasn’t going to hurt Theo. So why do I go there? And why can’t I just own my own sexuality without the idea of a patriarch that I need to get back at, or a kinky man driving my actions so that I don’t have to be accountable for my desires?


But Ali. His apartment was beautifully sunny. He’d put up some photographs and prints with more character since the last time I’d been over. He’s been studying my place and taking notes on what makes it warm and inviting, so I was flattered that he’d made changes after our last conversation about my decor. But I know they are not for me. Ali is about power. His appetite for more is insatiable, and putting pictures in a frame that make him seem like he’s got a strong sense of where he’s from is all part of him trying to stake out his turf in the big world. He is so beautifully complex, but I also worry that the writer in me fills in his blanks in a way that he might not see himself.

Here’s a guy whom I perceive as being often distant or unavailable to me in the way that I want or need a guy to be with me. But when he wants me, Ali WANTS me. He thinks I’m amazing and says things like, “What do you have to be neurotic about! Fine as hell, brilliant, career angled sharply upwards…” He’s a fan, and having sex with him is lovely, because he adores me physically and mentally. But there is no soul connection, and he’s so much an atheist and a logical thinker that I don’t think he gets that.

In his mind, he’s thinks giving me what I’ve stated I want. I asked for a sexual relationship and he delivers. But what’s missing is the other part, the dating and doing stuff together because we actually have fun together. He thinks he’s an open book, and if I ask him questions, he does answer thoughtfully, but part of him is behind a wall somewhere. He’s always a bit cagey because he’s dating so many women and doesn’t know what he wants from his future. And I don’t think he will know until it stops him dead in his tracks.

We cuddled on the couch for a bit and the goal was to go for a walk and then come back to Shag City. We talked about how our dating experiences on the apps were going and he did mention casually—in between kisses—that while we’d started out X-rated, maybe we should consider dating each other officially. Bah! I don’t even know what to make of that? What would be different? So I just kept kissing him until eventually the couch action proved too racy and exciting, so we agreed to change the order of events around and headed to the bedroom.

What followed was epic. Hours of fun with a wee nap in the middle and FIREWORKS at the end. He has this gorgeous skylight that flooded the room with light, and when he spooned me and fell asleep, I could hardly close my eyes for the smiling. He’s definitely a generous lover and is verbal with his praise and adoration of my physical self and my sexual prowess. (Hey, I’m in my FORTIES—I’ve got some chops!) And that is truly yummy in the moment. It’s like buying jeans that make your ass look good. Except with jeans, you can put them on whenever you want. In Ali’s case, the jeans decide when I get to wear them.


Eventually we got up and walked to get a bite to eat. We talked about dating and dating apps and weird experiences. I tried to be thoughtful and ask questions, but there’s something about our conversations that just don’t… FLOW. At least, not for me. We picked a place with a vibe and food that was too pricey. He’d been drinking the night before so he chose a soda and a salad. But I was happy to be with him, happy that he and I can be really honest when we choose to be. Still something niggles at me. Something makes me feel sad when I leave him, and it’s not because I miss him. It’s because there’s something missing in me.

This sadness followed me into the next day and I ended up having what I call a “Bad Divorce Day,” where the grief at the loss, the loneliness and the feelings of being unlovable overwhelm. I know this is bananas, because I have an abundance of love in my life. But there’s this nagging feeling about how hard it will be to actually find someone to partner with who can love me the way I am. Which, as I write this, I know that’s a story I’m going to keep perpetuating if that continues as my focus. I have to work to change the script. And maybe, after running it by Dr. X, the key is going to be to cut both Theo and Ali out of my life to make room for someone who is just right.

I do have a new realization after the events of the past few weeks. I’d like to fall in love again. I’d like to bet it all in the hopes of finding someone to swoon over. What I will no longer do is put any expectations of forever on that someone. Whatever happens happens. I want to be a bit of a tourist. I can love New York and London and Paris and Madrid and Montreal all for different reasons, and I’d like to live in them all before I die. Istanbul will always have my heart, but we aren’t meant to be together for long. There’s something in this metaphor that may be worth exploring while my kids are such a big part of my life. Would it be possible to find a few great men, who would fulfil my emotional and physical needs for a few years until I’m really ready for another life partner? Could it be like visiting my favourite cities over and over again?

Maybe taking a traveller’s approach to dating is the way forward. I’ve decided this is my gap year. The year I try a bunch of experiences to see where the gaps are, what needs filling, and where I need to grow to fill those gaps, rather than filling them with someone else. But if the men I date are like the places I would visit were I 22 and backpacking through Europe, that’s OK, because each destination will be special in its own way for what it teaches me about myself. More to come as I test out this idea.

 

Mr. Saturday Night

Mr. Saturday Night is a poet soul. I am a sucker for a poet soul, even though I am one myself. If that sounds a bit off, it’s because I don’t believe that two poet souls can exist in harmony. Someone has to be able to pay the bills and wash the dishes and know it’s tax season. Someone has to look up from the foggy haze that making art creates when one is in flow and say, “Shit, if we want to be productive adults, we should probably go to bed.”

But Mr. Saturday Night has a job. OK he has jobs. He is maxing out the gig economy. He is taking all of his myriad talents and making a quilt of a career out of them. And that kind of passion is intoxicating. He’s found success in what he loves most, weaving history and acting and teaching into something tangible.

He has an affected way of speaking: calm, methodical, thoughtful. He’s honed his stories over and over and from only one date I know I got some good ones, but that I’ve not nearly scratched the surface. He’s in love with his neighbourhood and tries to learn everything about its history. I am a bit smitten.

I’m trying to enjoy the feeling of having a date where I could get a bit floaty, but it doesn’t sit well with me. Because WTF do I actually know about this person? I am hopeful this could be a nice thing that floats me into the summer, but I can’t bet the farm on it. And yet, I found myself doing that this week. Speaking about Mr. Saturday Night as though we’ve had more than just one date. Silly, romantic Maria. It’s not her heart that can’t be trusted, it’s her fucking mind.

I met him at a bar he knows well. He’s clearly brought a lot of dates there, I got the hunch, from the way the server knew to automatically split our bills at the end of it without him saying a word. But we spoke for three hours straight, maybe a bit more. And he was so engaging, as I think was I, that I did not notice one of my dearest male friends, Lars of the peaches, sitting next to me at the bar until I got a text from him Sunday morning. Mr. Saturday Night is sparkling.

Red flags are there, but I’m proceeding with awareness this time, rather than trying to ignore them. Will this become something long-term? Who knows? But right now I’m just looking for a summer man friend and he is certainly a strong candidate. We’ve been flirty texting throughout the week. He makes me smile. He’s certainly a match for my wit, which is nice (I detest when guys can’t volley). But I find I’m trying to learn how to play my cards, which feels absurd. He’s the one I want to see, why do I have to wait until he suggests an outing?

As I was grappling with this, an event promo came in for something that combines theatre and a museum. I should have got the tickets and just waited to ask, but fuck, I’m tired of having to play the dumb ingenue, can’t I just fucking ask a guy when I want to do something with him? So I did, I texted an invite and then I waited for what felt like an agonizingly long time. When he accepted with a lovely “I would love to accompany you to this extravaganza,” my heart clapped. So what’s the problem?

The event isn’t until the end of the month, meaning I may have overshot it. I’m free this next weekend, but how can I put that out there? Can I ask him out again, before the big event? Or do I just subtly mention that I am available and see what transpires? Do you see what is happening here?

Readers, I need comments here. Do I just lay the cards as I fucking want to? Do I just call bullshit on patriarchal dating norms and do whatever the fuck I want, regardless of outcome and consequences? Do I say, hey, I’m free this weekend and I don’t want to wait two more weeks to see you? Is that preposterous? And if you think I should come out with it, do I do that Monday? Wednesday? Thursday night? GAAAAAHHHH!

My life was so much simpler when I’d written men off for eight months. Still don’t think I’m fit to date and yet I’m having so much fun this time that I don’t want to stop exploring. That’s a good thing, right?

 

So free

I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up in the way I have been. At some point, I’m going to meet someone really special. And then what do I do? Do I hide this from that person? Do I admit it? Do I let them read?

Maybe if I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me, regardless of the outcome, I just bear it all and am OK with it. The right person will accept me as is. But will they? Am I too much? Do I reveal too much?

I went on three dates this weekend. I decided to date a variety of ages and walks of life, because you don’t know what you don’t know. My type 20 years ago was a handsome, artsy boy who read stuff and knew the names of bands I liked (or should like). Funny, because apparently that’s still my type, just in man form.

#1 was a nightmare and I need to turn it into a comedy without being terribly offensive. I will just say, open marriage dude with a SIX MONTH OLD baby at home. Go home to your wife! Jeez!

#2 was young in the very best way. Do you remember what 27 was like? You were full of LIFE! Possibility! Options! And this guy knew it. He knew every ounce of privilege he occupied and he was grateful for it. Adorable. Educated. Great conversation. Sweet AF. But if I’m honest, there was sexual chemistry lacking on my part. He was def into me and that was great! I mean I’m not zen enough to not get flattered by that. I might take him to a ball game in the future.

#3… smitten. Just like that.

Gonna leave it there because it’s late and my battery is almost dead and I really want to give the story of Saturday night time to percolate, because it was kind of magic. But you know what? I didn’t freak out. I had only slight moments of “should I text?” but then left it be. (Spoiler alert: He texted today and man did I get a zing from a simple, “How was your Sunday?”)

Ali is back from a trip he forgot to mention he was going on (typical), so I had somewhere to put my flirt energy. I told him I’d only see him again if we did more than just fuck. Putting my foot down. I need to have my brain stimulated. Funny enough, he agreed.

Plus, hot off the presses!! Drew from work is humming around this orchid, building a friendship with me slowly, just behind me on the divorce timeline. I’m his dating and divorce sensei, like Ali is for me. Does he want to sleep with me? I certainly hope so, because he is gorgeous and really nice. But I also kinda want to date him. He has a good heart. Fragile, like mine. He’s kind and thoughtful and doesn’t treat people like shit. In fact, I like him so much, I’m just gonna park that as a friendship and see how that develops. Can I be my honest self with him and he still wants to pursue the next step? Would be nice, but I’m not going to go into this with that intention. I could use a friend. I’ve forgotten how to be friends with men. And it’s nice to have someone to vent to with no expectations for anything more.

All this to say, the horse is out of the barn now. When spring finally decides to show its arse to the northern hemisphere, I’m so ready.  It’s time for my rebirth and everything’s coming up tulips.

On self-confidence

I’m supposed to be working on my book. But, reasons.

I’ve had A WEEK, but I’m on the other side of it and wrapped up a huge presentation by going to therapy over lunch. In therapy I talked through some of the things I’ve been going through and some of the breakthroughs I have had. I’d like to get them down here, because maybe those insights could help you on whatever journey you’re on too.

I haven’t been to therapy since before Christmas, which is part of the reason I know I’m getting better. I’m not not-anxious, I’m not perfect, but I’ve got coping skills now. When I have a panic attack or a crazy-session, I have this inherent knowledge that it’s going to be OK. I have this little place inside myself where I can go to find calm. I have a feeling that that tiny spot will grow into a huge palace if I spend enough time there.

I went to therapy to debrief. A check-in of sorts. Because talking to someone who will call you on your shit is glorious. I told her about a three-day leadership program I did that was earth-shattering. Work sent me and I was surrounded by supportive colleagues I had never met before, who brought to my attention that I have a self-confidence issue. My therapist suggested that I work through it in my writing. (However my table at Just Write the Damn Book Club is chatting about Tessa and Scott—my favourite pasttime—so not sure how this is going to go.)

I am a woman who second guesses herself. A lot. In her parenting, in her outfit choices, but most prominently at work. I still act like the kid at the grown-ups’ table and somehow can’t grasp that I am now the grown-up! I don’t need to check with mommy every time I have a decision to make. And yet my instinct is to use a sounding board, or run it past someone before I commit.

And I think a lot of that has to do with being gaslit for so fucking long. For having to check everything against whether or not it was my crazy talking. It probably goes further back than that, to my childhood, where I had no autonomy or agency, because my mother dictated everything. And so I’ve forgotten how to trust myself. That part is clear to me now. In fact I can’t recall if I’ve ever truly trusted myself. How I get out of that cycle is what I’m going to spend some time on over the coming weeks.


Speaking of second-guessing things, things with Ali are… spicy… and confusing. And that’s actually the thing I want to explore today. Two weeks ago, Ali and I went on a real date, one that felt more like a boy and a girl getting to know each other. And that confused the fuck out of me, because, like most women, I’m an over-thinker. So when he asked me questions about what I might be looking for in a relationship, I skipped over the obvious, which is, “Here we are, two friends who fuck, and he’s asking me this question because he cares about me, NOT because he wants you to be his girlfriend.” I went straight to, “OMG! Maybe he’s falling for me.”

Humans are so terrible at actually HEARING each other. I read a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert (and I’m paraphrasing, so I’m gonna fuck it up further), where she received letters after writing Eat, Pray, Love and the letters would be all, “Girl! I relate to your story so much. It’s almost like I could have written it! That part where you talk about how your ex abused you really resonated with me.” Except Gilbert never wrote such a thing about her ex. We write or say one thing, and the person on the other end absorbs and digests it another way. We hear what we want to hear, believe what reinforces our beliefs. And I detest that I do this with men the most.

Because what if I’m wrong? What if I’m way wrong? Like what if I got all of Ali’s behaviour and intentions wrong last summer. What if he was trying to play it slow, pace it and I was just so eager to get into a sexual affair that I pushed us into the sandbox we are in now?

Except I’m not all wrong. I have always been right about Ali fulfilling his sexual fantasy of being with me. And I have played right into that role. I have enjoyed exploring my sexual self as someone’s plaything. But after spending two hours with him yesterday (I’ve been writing this over the course of this week so things are being revealed to me with each passing day), I feel empty. Our conversations are fun, but I think he might agree that there’s something missing in them. We talk fucking and work, there’s little else. We are honest, to a point. Like he’ll tell me he went on a date Wednesday night and how that went, but he won’t reveal whether he wants to stay after sex and watch Netflix with me in bed.

Also I cannot imagine introducing him to my kids. Ali walked me to the streetcar after our dinner. It was maybe 10pm and he was exhausted (he’s training for a boxing match and we’d just gone for three rounds of our own in his apartment). We talked again about whether or not he wants to have kids. Now, I’ll be supportive of anyone who wants children of their own, but feck, you have to really want them. And you have to be willing to do all the work that comes with having them. I think there’s an entire segment of 30-something men who are reading all this “I regret having kids” stuff in the media and deciding it might not be for them. I think Ali would ideally (and this is what I take away from our conversations) love if someone had his kids, raised them and he could just enjoy them. Except a woman like that wouldn’t satisfy his fetish for accomplished career women. So he’d need two, and they’d have to be OK with that. Not impossible, but it really narrows the field.

Anyway, that’s his deal. He’s not… paternal, except sometimes in the bedroom when he’s a bit of a commanding daddy. Hehe. So what I am loving about seeing Ali is that each date gives me insight in what I DO want. It’s practice. I’ve noted now that I want someone who will enjoy and appreciate my kids. And ideally he doesn’t want kids of his own (though if he has kids of his own already, that’s not a dealbreaker). But Ali is just for me. He doesn’t fit in my world outside the bedroom and some romance (though he probably could, but would take some effort).


I’ve been listening to a podcast called A Single Thing, by the adorable Natalie Karneef. And this great nugget I took away from the series towards the end is the idea that if you are using negative self-talk all the time around dating, you’re going to invite shitty experiences into your life. So if you’ve been saying, “I’m not lucky at love” since your teens, you won’t be lucky at love. So in that moment, I made a conscious decision to stop slagging men all the time (which is tough during this era of #metoo and the general awakening to toxic masculinity at every turn). Instead, I’m going to focus on extracting the positive, celebrating the good men in my life, amplifying the parts of dating that empower me and move me forward on my journey.

Ali reminds me to enjoy the journey and not focus solely on the destination. Being single is fucking fun! I’m sleeping with someone who thinks I’m a goddess and is actually encouraging and coaching me to date more. I’m being treasured. Which brings me back to my eternal question, “What is enough?” What will be enough for me? Is this enough for now?


I was supposed to reflect on self-confidence, and I don’t know that I’ve done that here. But I think a large part of self-confidence comes from listening to and trusting your inner voice. And journalling here really helps me to synthesize my thoughts and feelings, reminding myself that I’ve got this! Am I going to make mistakes? Sure! But if I take the time to reflect on what I might learn from them, then it’s all good. I need to push myself into uncomfortable situations, bravely, and then reflect on what didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I’m growing. I’m on a quest, a journey, and if I take the time to breathe and distill, I can truly appreciate the person I’m becoming. Is the shitty voice in my head there? Of course, but I’m learning that I have the remote and can turn down the volume or change the channel when that station comes on. You do too! And that’s a really fucking empowering thought.

Sexual self-care

I was at the chiropractor over the weekend, and boy do I love my chiropractor. Like if you could be besties with someone you see for only 20 minutes every 4-5 weeks, this would is me and Dr. B. Anyway, I was telling her how Theo and I are in a good place now, for the most part, and how we still do little Acts of Service for each other. Things that would have seemed ordinary in married life, but are amplified as super good deeds now that we are apart. And in the banter about how he makes me coffee when he comes over to look after the kids, I mentioned that I had recently encouraged him to go talk to someone about investing the money I gave him for the house.

“Wow, you really were doing it all, weren’t you?”

I paused to reflect. Yeah, I honestly think I was. Because if I think about the things he did, he still does them now, just without living in the house. He still makes my coffee and the kids’ breakfasts and lunches, he still shovels the walk (when he’s here during a snowfall), he takes out the trash for me, takes the car to the garage… and he’s a good dad to the kids. Done!

Wait, I skipped too far ahead, because as Dr. B and I were catching up, I mentioned that I haven’t had sex or dated since August-ish. And then I told her that Ali (yes THAT Ali) had been messaging me, flirting and asking to see me. He’d asked me to a concert (I couldn’t go), he’d asked me to make time for him and I was wishy-washy about it, and finally he came right out with, “I need a date and time to see you please, gorgeous.” Well, hello there! Apparently that’s how you get my attention, by being direct and insistent.


The thing is that Ali has been seeing Svetlana (did I call her that? I usually refer to her as the Russian Twinkie). So after I agreed to meet him, I had a bit of panic. I don’t want to be the other woman and break some young woman’s heart. I don’t have any Mrs. Robinson fantasies, last time I checked. I don’t want bad dating karma (which I know is not science, but whatever). In discussing this with Dr. B, the tangent eventually got to all the things I did for Theo.

“You know what? I think you should go out with Ali and just have fun,” Dr. B said thoughtfully, “I mean, you’ve been dealing in a lot of masculine energy by carrying it all, and now you need to balance your female energy. It’s time to let someone take care of you.”

I thought, heck, I shouldn’t assume here. Maybe he just wants to meet up for a drink and see how I’m doing. Maybe he wants to talk through his relationship, decide if he’s having kids and then make dating decisions accordingly. But I washed my sheets anyway. I coloured my roots, and shaved all the things anyway. I put on a body con dress. Because even if it was a maybe, I have not had sex since the summer. Didn’t I deserve a little body worship?


He was sitting at the bar, a sure sign that he wanted to get touchy (as I now know), and greeted me with a long tight hug. We chatted easily, with no expectations and no holds barred. There was a moment when I realized that if we respected each other’s boundaries, this could be one of the best friendships either of us might have. I mean how many people can go out with someone, say whatever they want, ask completely honest questions and have them answered equally honestly and then have that same person want to rip your clothes off? It dawned on me that I’d been selling this possibility short.

To be fair, I think over time and with my distance, he’s learned he can be candid with me and it doesn’t hurt my feelings. Not the kind of candour that’s mean-spirited, but talking through his sexual frustrations with the Russian Twinkie, or discussing whether he could be monogamous ever again. I don’t judge, because he’s not my future husband. He’s my friend who likes fancy cocktails and a solid fuck. Which is pretty much all I have time for once or twice a month.

I’d also been completely denying myself of any corporal pleasure. When I decided to hunker down until I got through the toughest parts of the separation (the agreement, Christmas/New Year’s and the Year One milestone), I became someone who binge-watched a lot of TV and hid under the covers. I barely had a sex drive, because what was the point? I could take the Dolphin out for 5 minutes or I could sleep. Sleep typically won out (though I’ve had to replace the batteries a few times over the past year).


So there we were at the bar, handsome, delicious Ali and flirty me, and it only took one drink for us to get handsy. I found his mouth irresistible and distracting. I asked upfront what kind of agreement he had with the Russian Twinkie and the lines seemed fluid enough that after two drinks I planted a kiss on him. WHO AM I?

He made it clear that coming home with me without telling her first was a little bit of breaking their rules, but at that point I was ready to take him to the fancy single bathrooms in the basement. He paid the check and we walked a good 20 minutes back to my place, chatting and giggling the whole way. He offered dating advice, admitted it would be challenging for me as a smart woman who is “a lot.” (Parking this thought for later.) When I asked him his opinion on #MeToo, I thought, “Damn, that was stupid,” but he answered thoughtfully and respectfully and his opinions aligned with my own, while giving me something new to ponder. Man we make each other laugh, it’s… nice.

The next several hours (yes, HOURS, thank you Mr. 36!) were gold-medal-worthy. He is a generous and considerate lover. Any woman would be lucky to sleep with him. He is just so happy to be fulfilling a seven-year fantasy that it’s easy for me to be my wild self. To play with sexual me, explore what she likes and how she may want to be perceived, but also it’s a huge practice in letting go and getting to the root of my true sexual self in the absence of an ego who is performing for applause. Because there are no expectations to make a life out of what we share, we can just be our animalistic selves. It is dirty and hot, but also playful and fun. No, it’s FUN! Bolded, underlined and italicized. So much flirty banter and talk of fantasies, and LOUD!

Of course today, I’m a giddy schoolgirl. I can barely answer, “How was your weekend?” I should have brought extra panties to work. I found a hickey on my thigh this morning and now I want to answer every question with, “I HAVE A HICKEY ON MY THIGH!” I am writing this on my lunch break to get the goddamn thoughts out of my head.

“I need to do this more than every six months or so, so that it’s not such a novelty,” I texted my best friend. My best gay said, “Oh just fuck him. Be a gay man for a while!” So perhaps that’s it. Ali will continue to see other people and explore what he wants for the rest of his adult life, and I will ask him to come over for afternoon delights every few weeks when I have some time. Neither of us has to get off the path we are on right now.

I’ve never had a lover—at least, not one that I didn’t try to make my “boyfriend.” It seems indulgent, but also feels like the right thing for right now. I’m not ready to date just yet. Not ready to really put myself out there. Not ready to navigate how to be a mom who dates and worries about when to introduce someone to the most important humans in her life. This is safe, and a sure thing, and brings me SO MUCH JOY! I’m not doing it because I have to. It’s not a “should.” I’m filing it under self-care and patting myself on the back for now. Go get yours, girls.

 

 

The great big no

youngadult

I’m kind of a mess today. I’m nursing a big barrel of shame—and a hangover.

I was listening to The Lemonheads on the weekend and since I’m acting 23 and not 43 and the 90s are back in style, maybe I need to explore this song in the context of this post.

I went out with another former colleague, last night. (This seems to be my prime dating pool right now, though after I tell you this story, you’ll understand why I’m never going to do that again.) Let’s call him Evan (as in Dando). I was hoping it was a date and I had sexy, flirty thoughts about it all day. Partially because I’ve always found him hot, but also because he and I have always had a bit of a soul connection. He’s witty and adorable and there’s something appealing about him. He’s effortlessly cool and a bit of an intellectual snob and I am always drawn to those types, probably because my dad was always an asshole who read a lot of books.

When he arrived at the bar, everything felt neutral. I didn’t get a vibe from him that it was a date. And shortly into our conversation about how he’s not lived with his wife for 2.5 years, I asked him about dating and he replied that he’s been seeing another one of our former colleagues for about a year. Huh. OK. Moving on.

So I did that thing I do, which is to just be myself, un-self-consciously babbling and oversharing too much, revealing that I’m slightly broken and messy. Why do men fall for that over the together-me? I had FIVE bourbon cocktails. This is all not a good mix. I am a horrible tease when drunk.

Lover don’t turn your head.
Just let me walk away.
I thought I might have to say,
You’re asking the wrong guy.
She wonders how.
Thinks she knows now.
She’ll be right.
They always go bye the bye.
The great big no. Great big no.
Great big no. Great big no.

 

I honestly thought I’d be done after two drinks, but Evan kept ordering Manhattans and then getting frustrated when they weren’t “perfect.” He was too discerning about the food and the drink, something that would probably make me nuts if we were ever dating. But we had fun. He’s broken, I’m broken. His story was tough to hear, and I can only imagine what he was like when he was at the same point I am now. He’s struggling to figure himself out, struggling to pick up the pieces, but also he’s OK with it. His kids are older. He’s almost at a big turning point.

I don’t even know how three hours went by, but they did and the drunker I got, the more flirty I got, even though he is dating our mutual friend. I was shameless, talking about how no one since Theo has gotten my A-game in bed. (Ugh.) Talking about how Ali has some sort of program or algorithm for having sex and how that’s not really enough for me as a canvas that needs a painter. Talking about the Brazilian and his bad tongue.
Is nothing okay with you? 
Is nothing okay with me?
Is anything happening to have to go to sea?
He wonders why. The indigo guy,
He’ll be right.
They always go bye the bye.
The great big no. Great big no.
Great big no. Great big no.

I don’t know how I kissed him across the bar, but I did. Maybe he asked if he could kiss me on the cheek and I turned my face in at the final moment. I used Ali’s moves on Evan, I somehow leaned over the corner of the bar and planted a peck on his lips. Damn. “Oh I’m glad you did that,” he said.

Five bourbon cocktails means lots of last night is fuzzy. Did we kiss again in the bar? Was there tongue? I dunno. Maybe? [INSERT SHRUG EMOJI HERE.] We said goodnight at some point. He went outside to smoke some liquid e-cigarette thingy and I went to the ladies and popped some gum in my mouth. And then, when I got out there, he said, “Let’s do that again.” And I was so fine with it because drunk Maria is a horny slut, and man, he was a good kisser and I knew that the experience would expire the moment we walked away. Because hell, we are not ever doing that again.
Everyone knows everything
Everyone knows everything
Nobody, nobody has got no one to go to.
Great big no.
Great big no.
Great big no.
Great big no.

I rode home in the dark, defying death somehow (touch wood, ptoo, ptoo). I wobbled into the house and Theo was waiting and perturbed by something. He confronted me about something our daughter said I said about him, about why we broke up. And the mental gymnastics I had to do to get through it were brutal. I was too wasted for the conversation. I should have stopped it. But instead, I tried to do a brain cartwheel onto the mat and it quickly spun out of control.

We haven’t fought since he left. Not really. I’ve never said all the things I wanted to say because I’ve spent years arguing the same arguments. He can’t acknowledge my hurt, he can’t take responsibility for his actions. When I drunkenly listed off his infractions last night he told me the reason he did those things was because I am full of hate for him. Wow. Even if that’s remotely true, my resentment should not be your excuse for signing up for an adultery dating site.

I tearfully asked him to leave. Later, I texted him to let him know I was sorry and we both admitted responsibility for how that all went down, apologized and committed to getting back on track on the path we were on: friendship and coparenting respectfully. This morning we hugged and I made the mistake of breathing him in again, but with the added mistake of looking lovingly and brokenly into his eyes. Sigh. I’m the world’s biggest fool.

Felipe texted last night to say he had made progress with his daughter and that he was thinking of me. He calls me Bonita. I love that. I told him that I was feeling like a piece of shit and didn’t deserve his praise and he wrote back the most beautiful words of encouragement. I’m kind of grateful he’s still there in the background, but have to remind myself that he’s not anywhere near the right one to date right now and that his kisses left my skin crawling.

Ali messaged too and I will see him next week to have my itches scratched. I view my Ali nights like going to the chiropractor. He will wring me out in his 7/10 way, pushing all the right buttons, but failing to make poetry with my body. But he always leaves a huge smile on my face.

This morning I woke up with guilt about kissing the boyfriend of my friend. I haven’t seen her in years, but we used to hang out a lot and I have a lot of affection for her. It was a shitty move on my part. I don’t know if they are using labels, but still, I should not have put my tongue in her dude’s mouth. But as my beloved gay chastised me today, “Oh don’t stress out. It was only a snog.” Right? Let’s go with that.

I need to be mindful that my flirtations can get me in trouble. That there are real consequences to my actions and I’m playing with people’s feelings after all. But I also need to accept that I am hedonistic and messy right now. Maybe there’s no statute of limitations on how long I will live like this, but I think that’s par for the course for the next six months, until we pass the one-year milestone, at least. Because hey, I haven’t defined the charter of rights and freedoms for the country called Maria yet. I haven’t outlined the mission statement. What does Maria represent? What does she stand for? What will she unapologetically not stand for? What resources does Maria have and what does she need in terms of partners and allegiances to make her country stronger? That, my faithful readers, is what I’m hoping to figure out before the ball drops on 2017.

Whoah (Lover don’t turn your head.)
Lover don’t turn your head.
No. (Lover don’t turn your head.)
Is nothing okay with you?

Written by Evan Griffith Dando, Tom Morgan • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC, Domino Publishing Company