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

Bye Felipe

I shut things down with Felipe earlier this week. We’d been on three dates, but the way he spoke, he’d already married us in his mind. So I did what any rational 40-something who has had her heart broken by the love of her life would do. I freaked the fuck out.

Our second date came after that brutal mediation session two weeks ago. The one where they got the numbers wrong and I discovered I was fucked for life it would cost me more than double to pay my ex what’s fair so that I could keep the family house. I needed a distraction. I’d blown Felipe off to hang with The Momz the night before, which should have been a clue, but we were one date in and “uteruses before duderuses” as my pal Amy would say.

I texted him to meet me somewhere and he was all giddy about it. “What am I going to wear?!” Cute. He met me at a bar with a gift of some Brazilian food “for you and the kids” and said, “You’ve had a hard day, so I hope you don’t mind but I brought you something. Open your hand.” And then he gingerly placed a joint in my hand. I’d had a shit day and I’ll admit, I was impressed with the kind gesture. But as soon as I said that I really needed a toot, he was off his seat and ready to go smoke. My spidey sense went off, but I chalked his behaviour up to nerves.

I convinced him to sit down and order a drink. The bar was loud, but we talked a bit. I showed him a photo of my daughter and as soon as I opened the FB app, he said, “Felipe Luiz—you can add me!” (Too soon, buddy.) I didn’t mind his halting English, though he had a tendency to over-explain things and later contradict himself. Just something lost in translation, I thought. We were having a drink when a beer sales guy came by with samples. I chatted the beer dude up because I’m friendly and like free samples, and I soon learned we had a friend in common. We asked Felipe to take our photo to share with our friend, who was having a bit of a moment with a certain hashtag around a magazine cover she’d been photographed for. It occurred to me that I shouldn’t be chatting with this strange man so enthusiastically, but I wasn’t attracted to beer dude at all, so I ignored it. I’m a social creature and if Felipe was jealous, he didn’t let on.

Felipe clearly wanted to get out of the bar, so he paid up and we left. He has this weird habit of not saying what he likes and waiting for me to lead the way, or saying he doesn’t like something and then ordering it because I did. It frustrates me when people don’t speak up for themselves. I offered a walk to a nearby park so we could chat and smoke and a few more quirks came out. He insists on walking on street side of the sidewalk, “in case a car comes, it will hit me first,” he said. “Oh, of course,” I replied, “You probably have a thing about that. Makes sense.” (His first wife died in a terrible car accident and he was driving. A truck t-boned them and hit her side.) “No! You think so?” he seemed surprised. “That’s OK,” I reassured him, “But yeah, probably. It would make sense.”

Then he brought up his discomfort with dark open spaces, because in Brazil you would be worried about being robbed or killed. I have to acknowledge my North American privilege here. If I were a woman alone, I would also be nervous somewhat, though the older and more invisible I get, the less so. But truthfully, I am a woman in one of the safest countries in the world and when I’m in a group or with a man, I am not afraid. I’ve worked very hard to diminish my fears. I spent a lot of years too afraid to enjoy the outdoors and one of the greatest gifts from my ex was teaching me to trust that everything would be OK. So now that I’m in this period of great independence, I relish in aloneness and quiet spaces with few people. In a city the size of this one, finding an empty space is a gift!

We held hands and I didn’t like the way he held hands and that made me sad. I have a certain way of holding hands, because my hands are tiny like a child’s, and he corrected it. It made me miss my ex, who knew exactly how I liked to hold hands and despite our giant height difference, we just fit. But then Felipe kissed me on a street corner at a red light. And it was not good. His tongue is aggressive, like full snake, left-right left-right swishing in there instead of gentle swirling. He has very thin lips, but even so, one should not launch a full scale tongue attack. Then I did something I am typically not comfortable with. I decided to relax into it and let him lead. And suddenly the kissing was better! It started to drizzle so we ran under a pergola and lit up.

The conversation was lively and fun. He was just the right kind of sarcastic, not mean at all, but witty. We played a bit of a game where we taught each other how you greet someone in our different cities and cultures. One kiss on the cheek in Sao Paolo, two kisses in Rio. Super cute. He was hungry and wanted to take me to a BBQ restaurant, so we began walking in the direction of my ex’s apartment. When we passed a certain bakery he asked if I would meet him there on Sunday. I told him I had my kids so it was out of the question. “But you can bring them and then tell them you ran into your friend Felipe!” Um, no. “I’m just kidding,” he replied, but I was not having it.

It started to pour, so we hid under some trees and made out some more before deciding to run to the BBQ place. The BBQ place had shut down their kitchen early because of the rain, but offered us a seat. Felipe asked for water and napkins for me, which was sweet. I realized I was very, very stoned. I only smoke a handful of times a year at most, so I’m just not used to it. Somehow we left the BBQ joint and headed to a pub across the street and that all seemed to go ok.

There was, of course, a bigger red flag than his traumatic past. His unemployment. While his words said he was waiting to start a course and improve himself, broken me has lived through that once already with someone else and doesn’t want to go there again. I’m looking for security. I’m looking for a grown-up. I’m not looking for excuses. In the most Jane Austen of ways to analyze this—he doesn’t have any prospects. But the conversation was great and I was really feeling ok about it all. This would be a nice second love affair, I thought. It was simmering and I wasn’t ready to take it off the stove or eat it yet, but there was something good stewing. I’m certainly not ready to make a meal you host friends for, but there was at least a snack here.

We had to leave so I could send my ex home (he spends his two weeknights with the kids at the family home) and I found myself not wanting him to walk me home for obvious reasons, but also I didn’t want him to know where I live. He lives five minutes from me and that’s already too close for comfort if something gets weird. We kissed in the street and I was so baked that I didn’t care that the school moms might see me. I started to put his hands up his shirt. “Don’t torture me,” he said with a smile. I felt sexy and powerful.

He texted me several times a day after that. While he kept saying that he knows my kids come first and that I’m devoted to my new job second, and that he’d wait for me no matter what, there was a daily testing of the boundaries. There was a lot of “I missed you today,” which is not really about me, but about how he needs me to make him feel. Still, I was optimistic and also curious to sleep with him. But while I initially enjoyed seeing his messages pop up on my phone, they started to feel oppressive real quick. A good morning here, a rose emoji in the middle of the day, all lovely. But the worst of it was all the schooling and encouragement, the overly complimentary—if I wanted that I’d call my mom!

And the truth is, if I was into him, like REALLY into him, I’d probably be all over it. But I’m just not in the market for that right now. But I booked a third date anyway, very stupidly, after my third sexual encounter with Ali (SO DAMN GOOD!).  A friend joked that I am the Goldilocks of dating: one guy who rarely texts or calls, the other one does it too much. “The next guy will be just right,” I joked to my therapist. “But no,” she said firmly, “You don’t want Mr. Just Right right now. You’re not ready for that!” She’s goddamn right, I’m not. To be continued…

 

Mais feliz

Until yesterday, a Brazilian was a painful bikini wax that leaves you bare as a 2-year-old. (Thanks p0rn!) While I certainly need to tackle my hairiness in a more permanent way now that anyone can see me naked at any time, I’ve got Brasil on my brain and it only sorta has to do with my nether regions.

I met him in an app and I had a good feeling right away. I asked if we could leave texting until I got back from vacation and he agreed, but then messaged me Saturday to see if we could meet. I had a kid-free weekend so I obliged. But on the morning of, I found myself depressed about my life and didn’t feel like going. I barely made an effort getting dressed, which if you know me IRL, is not like me AT ALL. But I walked over anyway, because it was an exercise in getting back on the bike, so to speak.

We met at a cafe nearby, and I almost instantly liked him. He’s older. 10 years older. He’s been through some things. But we had a bit of a soul connection yesterday over espresso and toast. We seem to see the world and life in the same way. We own our trauma and suffering, but refuse to let it define our lives. He’s bald, but fit and has this face you could fall into for hours. I’m calling him Felipe, AKA “The Brazilian.”

Conversation flowed easily. There’s a language barrier, but not an intellect barrier, and an oh-so-sexy accent.  In the middle of our convo, he suddenly exclaimed, “You’re beautiful!” Which was so refreshing after a few weeks of being flattered only in sexually suggestive lingo, like “You’re such a hottie.” (Though I suppose this works for Ali, as he’s just an occasional itch-scratcher.)

At the end of our lovely afternoon, I realized that I really, really wanted to kiss Felipe on the mouth. So as we said goodbye, I did. Or we both did. Hard to say. Just a peck, but with a spark that made me want more.

Tonight we sent lovely, friendly, non-sexy but flirty texts. I’m definitely on his mind as much as he is on mine.  I have no idea where this will go but I have no expectations about it. He lives nearby and likes to bike and for now that’s good enough. He’s a single dad and gets all that comes with raising kids. And he’s not a chauvinist in the least. At least not so far.

We shall see, but I found myself playing Bebel Gilberto tonight…

Unpausing

It’s been a busy few weeks with a vacation in the middle. Oh and a promotion! I got that job!

So I’m happy to report that in the middle of all this, I sorted out my head—however temporarily—when it comes to men and fuckboys.

After the last message I received, requesting a pause, I fucking gave up. I did not respond. But dammit, I’m so hot and bothered lately with the summer and the cycling and the drinking and my tan. Plus I’ve been doing this thing where I look at my naked self in the mirror every day so that I can practice loving myself as I am. I know that sounds like some kooky Oprah shit, but bear with me.

So I’m finally feeling good about this middle-aged bod and I’m ready for some sex therapy. I have a lot of hangups about sex and relationships that come from sexual assault by men in my teens and 20s, and also from emotional and physical abuse from my father that really impacted my self-esteem and my need to feel safe. I’m working on a post about that, but it’s quite personal so I’m taking my time. It will be LONG.

I’ve decided I’d really like to explore my sexuality. I’ve never had a slutty phase. I moved from my parents’ house into my husband’s apartment and the rest is history. My current sexual objectives are two-fold:

1) To be able to separate my emotions from sex, knowing full-well that sex with someone you care about tends to feel the best in your head, but also knowing that I need to get out of my head when it comes to sex.

2) To learn more about myself and this experience of life on earth through sex. I’m a big believer in the fact that being alive in these vessels called bodies is a gift. It seems wrong, as I go through this life trying to connect mind, body, heart and soul, to not use the body as a method of getting to a more ongoing Zen state. (Go ahead. Laugh. I’m good with it.) I hold back on my orgasms, for example. Why is this? Can I let that go? Who is going to help me get there? This is why I’m calling it sex therapy.

OK and maybe the third is this—I’ve only ever slept with a handful of guys and one was kind of a date rape situation after drinking way too much. I am passionate and caring, so I think I’m pretty good in bed (confirmed by current lover, several times, without me asking), but there’s so much I don’t know about. I have the standard vanilla moves, but there’s for sure stuff I haven’t tried, or if I’ve tried them, maybe I haven’t done them properly. Anyway, there’s room for improvement. I’ve basically got to have a lot of sex to be able to formulate what I like.


Maybe a week and a half after being asked to be put on pause and thinking, HELL TO THE NO, lo and behold—PING! I was packing for a week away with my kids when he showed up in my Messenger feed, sheepishly asking if I was free over the weekend. He needs a name here, so let’s call him Ali.

I texted my dating guru pal, Ann St. Vincent, to ask what I should do. She set my mind straight immediately with something along the lines of, “Does he want to take you out or just fuck you?” Ann has this idea that men either take you out once and fuck you and put you in fuck buddy mode or they want to get serious and that there’s really no in between. There are not a lot of Friends with Benefits situations where you get to go out and hang and THEN fuck, without there being a more serious title or label.

So after hyperventillating, I typed back, “Packing for a week away, but that could have been fun. What did you have in mind?”

He responded that he’d had a tough week and was hoping for some “stress relief,” which made me feel like those squishy smiley face balls you can squeeze in your hand. (That may well be an apt depiction of me.) Anyway, clear lines drawn, probably a bit as a result of me saying that I don’t want a relationship right now. But this is going to be a friendship built on fucking from now on. Sigh.

“I dunno, dude…” and then something in me, the thing that had given up on the whole idea and was back at NothingToLoseville, politely named all the things which made hooking up again a bad idea. Namely that I was hoping for a note or something courteous afterwards, that it was a big deal for me even though it is casual and flirty and I’d asked for it specifically. I mean guys, I’ve been eating the same sandwich for 20 years! You suddenly present me with sushi and I’m gonna think, “Well that looks interesting, but I’m kinda used to my sandwich and trying new things is scary!” If you got my hangups, or even if you’re anything a bit old-fashioned and/or culturally/religiously-brainwashed, I think you’ll get why casual sex isn’t easy for me. So it was KIND OF A BIG DEAL! I wanted that acknowledged. Sue me.

I told him that I’m not some app chick. We’ve known each other for six years! Not that he should treat ANY woman the way he did, but we have an established relationship. We have something like 50 friends in common on FB. I also told him that he just needs to be upfront with me. I’m a big girl and can handle it. Don’t manage my emotions or feelings for me, dude.

He apologized, and I do think he was receptive to the message, but I had to decide in that moment if I was going to put up with his bullshit in exchange for pretty great sex. What would you do?

It’s not like I had anything else lined up, so we got to flirting again and I told him I’d message him here and there while away. Don’t judge. I sent bikini shots (nothing too salacious, because I’m no dummy), which is something I could not have done 20 years ago!

Anyway, flirting over text is fun! You have no idea how I lived in a world where flirting over text got you insulted or ridiculed. I am flirty. I love it. I love sharing my dirty thoughts with someone who reciprocates, and Ali is great at it. Bonus that he’s always so complimentary. He makes me feel good about myself. I don’t need him for that job, but it’s nice and I’m enjoying it.

Here’s the other thing, he’s actually a great guy. Someone I care about. Someone whose mind I enjoy, but who would not be a great boyfriend for me. I crave a daily check-in, and he’s never going to be that dude. And honestly, outside of work, it’s hard to know if we’re actually compatible beyond the bedroom. I’m skeptical that this could move to dating so that we could find out, but I adore Ali and I hope that never changes. He came into my life just as I needed what he has to offer. I look at him like a gift from the universe.

3/4 of the way through my trip, after some back and forth about a pretty bike ride I’d taken that he might enjoy, I got a “When are you gonna pedal back home?” Somehow I ended up with a booty call appointment for the day I got back. He wrote the next day that he was looking forward to Friday. So Friday night, I went over there. Late.

His place is nice, and there were hints of personality, but overall it was too austere and pristine for my taste. I can’t really relax when a dude’s place is THAT CLEAN. Like my general perception of him, it reflected a guarded, cultivated enigma. The journalist in me is piecing together clues on what makes him tick, so I totally get why he’s that way, but I also need to pay attention so that empathy and a desire to understand a person does not overrule what is best for me right now.

His bed was huge and comfy, and he lifted me onto it with proficiency, a bit forcefully. So hot. Searing flashes of lightning came through the bedroom skylight while we shagged through a thunderstorm. His body is smooth and I might be a bit obsessed with his skin. He is an attentive lover and when he says, “Get on your hands and knees for me, please,” I grin like a fool and oblige. I’m a kid in a candy store, after years of being deprived of sex and attention. And because I now live in NothingToLoseville, I am uninhibited in a way I have not been in a loooong time.

After two rounds of fun, we lay in each other’s arms quietly and, since I’m new at this, it dawned on me that I should initiate my departure, unless otherwise mentioned. So I said, “I should go soon” and when there was no, “You could always sleepover,” I understood that my perception was right. I don’t know that I would have said yes. Sleeping next to someone is an intimate trust exercise. I’m not ready yet.

He asked if he could call me an Uber, which was a nice move and then he texted me after with a flirty, thankful note. Lesson learned: Ask for what you need. Sometimes that’s tough, especially if the opportunity doesn’t come up.

Which leads me to my date today with the handsome older South American gentleman. I’ll call him Felipe, after the fake name Elizabeth Gilbert gave to her older Brazilian lover (who later became her husband). But I have to sleep, so you’ll have to wait. I can’t get Felipe out of my mind.

 

 

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.