Gutted

I love the term gutted. When you think of something like a fish having its innards torn out, then it makes the term so perfect for when you’re feeling like a complete deflated balloon about your life.

Except the fish is already dead (one would hope). That’s a small consolation, but it matters. Whereas you are still alive, but someone has reached in and scooped out your insides, your guts still digesting the banh-mi you had for lunch and your heart fully beating.

Last week I had the floor ripped out from under me at the mediators’ office. They fucked up a spreadsheet, and as the Excel document recalculated the numbers, all the blood drained from my face. The amount I thought I needed to buy out my ex so I can keep our family home more than doubled. I hadn’t checked their math. I’d been elated at the number and found comfort in it. It wasn’t so bad. Until it WAS SO BAD.

In a simple computation, my entire financial future was gone. All the work I have done to reach the top, for nought. All that work, the work of getting over mySELF, owning my bullshit and fighting to improve myself so that I could function in the corporate grown-up world, today it feels like it was for nothing. Because I loved and enabled someone who was depressed and didn’t get proper help for years.  And that person fell so low in their crappy half-hearted quest to define himself that now I will have to sell the farm to stand him up on his feet outside my home.


Years ago, when he had decided he would go back to school, I told him we would need a line of credit to pay for his schooling expenses beyond tuition, and the income he’d no longer be bringing in. But at the time, I was hopeful. I wanted to believe we were investing in a joint future. If I ever get into a serious cohabitation situation again, I will keep my money completely separate.

He balked at the line of credit and said we just needed some lifestyle changes and to get rid of our home phone. Maybe sell the car. So I calmly opened up my spreadsheet and eliminated the cleaning lady, the home phone, our vacation budget and the car. We were still short $1000 a month. “One person can’t do this alone!” he finally realized.

“Um, yeah,” I responded dryly, “Why do you think I’m so nice to you?” Because of course I’d run the numbers. I have journals full of how it felt to be completely neglected, how what he would say to me would cause me to second guess or—worse—hate myself. I’d run the numbers when he was supposed to be making movies but couldn’t get off the couch all day. I’d run the numbers when I caught him on Ashley Madison or when I found he’d watched porn but left all the breakfast dishes in the sink. We live in an expensive city and one person can’t do this alone.


On the flipside, I HAD been doing it alone. His income was always spotty. He had good years, years where he worked while I’d breastfeed babies on government assistance. Years where we made about the same or he’d even made a bit more. But they never lasted. I remember the week I told him I was pregnant with our first, calling him on a Thursday afternoon to find him out playing flying disc golf.

“You NEED to get a job now, do you understand? We’ve got a baby coming and the government is going to tax the $400 a week I get and it will not add up to my salary!” The fight was awful. He went silent, as he always did. His attempts to work always fell a bit flat. Nothing was ever right and to be fair, I wasn’t supportive of the post office job that had the phone ringing at all hours of the night (he was on call) when there was a newborn in the apartment.

Somehow, when the baby was six months old, we bought a house. You could afford to buy a house back then. In the big city, on the transit line. My job got us the mortgage, some money from his mom got us the minimum downpayment. It seemed fair. My maternity leave top-up from my employer was about to end, JUST as the first mortgage payment was about to come out of our joint account. That’s when he finally got an offer for a full-time contract job doing what he wanted to do.

It was shift work, but it had a cadence, a flow. We could plan weekends away based on the schedule, for example. We spent many nights and weekends apart, but it was OK. My memory is fuzzy, but if I compare it to what came after, I’d say it was manageable. But eventually, he felt stifled as an artist and started to hate working there.

The second child came two years later. The goal was for me to freelance write, so I could stay home with her and keep the older one in daycare part-time for socialization and preschool education. “We can make it work,” he’d said, “We just need some lifestyle adjustments.” But then I ran the numbers and it didn’t look like it. Not if I ever wanted to be able to take a vacation or fix the thousand broken things in this century home. So I took a job at a startup, working from home, thinking that the steady income and flexibility the job offered would work for me.

But it didn’t. You can’t get work done with a baby at home unless you are disciplined as hell. And I’m just not. I always felt behind. I was up in the wee hours and would fall behind on my deadlines. When I would ask family to babysit, I’d often get, “But you’re not going to an office” type responses. So I started going to the office of the startup, and sending my beautiful baby to my mother’s for three days each week, in order to be able to work.

I would have nightmares that the baby was lost in the ether, that I’d left her somewhere when I was supposed to pick her up, but I didn’t know where. In the dreams no one knew where she was and I was a horrible mother, trying to make a living instead of taking care of my baby. I was still half nursing her during this time, which had its own issues. I was also going crazy.


When I went to the startup, my ex came home one day and said he was taking a contract job at a big national broadcaster. The hours were unclear, but the content was great. And we dealt. For years he would work from 2-10pm or 3-11pm and every single weekend, while I was working 9-5 and coming home to take care of two very small kids, alone. I’d have two evenings a week to decide what to do with my time: Hang out with him or maybe do something social with others. On weekends I would do the kids’ swim, ballet and soccer on my own. My family was a great help to me during this time.

While home during the day all alone, he would do the grocery shopping once a week and he’d do the laundry while he watched TV. I’d have to go back through old journals or emails to be sure, but I’m pretty sure that not much else was going on. I know I would ask for things to be done and they wouldn’t be done, or I’d email or text him throughout the day and get no response.

When you email or text someone during the day, this is called “turning towards” in relationship counselling circles. Other “turning towards” things are like saying, “Hey guess what happened at work today!” Or, “Did you hear about what Trump did now?” “Do you want to watch Game of Thrones together?” “Do you want to see the new Cohen Brothers movie next weekend?”

Partners that know how to maintain a loving relationship turn towards the other, even if they are in the middle of a juicy article in the New Yorker. They acknowledge the other partner has made an effort to engage them, even if it’s just, “Yeah, that sounds lovely. Let me finish what I’m reading and then let’s talk about it while you have my full attention.”

He was home during the day, alone, and would watch the series we were supposedly watching together and get so far ahead that I couldn’t catch up. I’d just give up. He was home during the day and if he’d respond to my questions, it was clear he hadn’t read through the email thoroughly and wouldn’t actually answer me. He would never initiate a date, never ask me to go anywhere unless his friends invited us someplace.


Then at some point, the grind of the contract work and the crazy hours caught up to him. I urged him to try something else, urged him to align his work with our lifestyle so we could all be home together more often. So he did. He tried a Monday-Friday, 9-5 situation, but the work wasn’t creatively fulfilling. And he started to sink that summer, slowly but steadily, like a boat with a leak.

At that point, I’d been working for about a year in a fancy job that would set me on the career trajectory I’m on today. I’d just won a big industry award, my first, and also started singing in a band for a magazine article. Here’s something I wrote during that time:

“A dozen years ago, I sat in my parents’ kitchen with all my girlfriends around the vinyl floral table cloth. No one was saying it, but we kept eyeing the stovetop clock. “Well it’s five hours ahead there,” someone suggested. “Maybe he’s waiting to be the last person to wish you a happy birthday.”

The evening grew to nighttime and then to midnight. And it was no longer my birthday. He never called.

I ignored his calls for a few days after that. Oh wait, no, he actually never called. A card never arrived. I finally gave in called him, upset, in tears. I told him our long distance affair wasn’t working for me. I told him it was over.

For weeks after, my phone was littered with messages. “I heard a Spice Girls song and it made me think of you.” “I saw a pair of blue shoes, and I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

Finally, I returned his many calls. He told me he was coming home. Coming back to be with me.

We were engaged months later, and married shortly after that. It was mostly blissful. Then kids came along and things became difficult. But we worked on it, believing that there must be something worth saving under the wreckage.

Today I’m 38. It’s almost noon. Technically I wasn’t born until 4:30pm, so technically I’m still 37 for a few hours. He still hasn’t called. Only he’s not all the way in England this time. He’s at work.

In the last year, I got a promotion, won a prestigious award, battled my demons and got on a stage as the lead singer of a band. I should feel satisfied. But it’s like he barely noticed.

I have a cozy house, a good job and two amazing kids. I have a “community” of friends, as was mentioned to me yesterday. But I still don’t have the one thing that has eluded me for years now.

Him.

Sure, he lives with me. He’s an amazing dad, and the kind of partner who will pick up the pieces on weeks where I’m busy, someone who has made great sacrifices recently to try to make our homelife a bit more stable… but I keep looking for Him, the real him, and I can’t find him. I keep waiting for the day where he emerges and sees me again, for the incredible person I have become. There are glimpses. A day here, a week there, but mostly, I live with this new person who broods in his head and criticizes everything I say or do in the presence of the kids.

He lives with a new person too. One who is more confident and doesn’t need to hold his hand anymore to try new things. One who has a new awareness and acceptance of her shortcomings. One who doesn’t need to have a feisty argument, and has grown up a bit, or so she’d like to think.

But I miss my old friend. I miss sharing our dreams. I miss laughing effortlessly and just enjoying being in one another’s presence. I miss my lover, my soulmate. I miss holding hands and looking longingly in his eyes.

I guess I can get over the fact that he’s not here. That I’m cleaning and cooking on my birthday because I asked for a BBQ that no one’s around to help coordinate. I can get over the fact that he hasn’t called or even texted a birthday greeting yet (after all, that precedent was set years ago). I’ll get over the fact that I made him a weekday breakfast in bed with the kids on his own day and he’s working on mine.

But I don’t know that I’m going to get over the fact that I no longer have a lover and a best friend. I’m seriously unsure about what the next year will bring.”


Everything went downhill after that. In the fall of that year he told me he was smitten with someone at work. By new year, I’d caught him on a dating site for adulterers. He was home a lot, depressed and watching YouTube and Netflix all day, leaving breakfast dishes in the sink and not picking up the kids until the final minutes of daycare, not starting dinner until way too late.

I’d written it off as a midlife crisis at first, and when he turned 40 and got into a university program to retrain himself, it briefly seemed like the cloud had lifted. And I worked. It was all I knew how to do. I worked and got promoted and each promotion was a punch in the face to a man who felt unmanly because his wife was more successful than him. We were a total fucking cliche.

I tried to hold myself back so that he could catch up, but he was headed in the opposite direction. When the depression was at its worst, when I felt like I was living with a ghost, I urged him to get help. He refused his doctor’s prescription for happy pills and wouldn’t take the fancy mood-boosting vitamins I’d bring home. The answering machine was full of missed appointment calls for much-needed counselling.

I held on. I told him that he could push as hard as he wanted, but I wasn’t leaving. I was there for him. I was his wife and I would do as promised. I would stay no matter what. In angry moments, when it was so clear he wanted this burden of marriage to be over, I would tell him that what he envisioned would not happen, that he would not get to stay in this house with the kids, while I fucked off somewhere and just enjoyed my success alone. Hell to the no.

I yelled that I wished he would grow the fuck up. “That’s harsh,” he said. He was so fragile. One night I yelled that he wasn’t the one that was oppressed, that I had creative dreams too that were unfulfilled, and I was shoving them down deep so that I could keep a roof over our heads.


It continued to get worse. I’ve written about it a bit here before. And now, just in this last week, just when I thought my latest promotion meant I could keep all the balls in the air and keep that roof over our heads, BOOM. Like a toddler kicking an epic LEGO build, it all came apart.

The amount I have to pay him to keep the house doubled and I doubled over. I have a medium-sized line of credit, which I could use to pay him half the total amount now. And then I will have to hand over my bonus to him each year until my debt is paid. The carrot that keeps the fight in me, that pays for a grand vacation each year, or fixes the roof over our heads, that carrot will be eaten by him each year. Getting my head around this has left me gutted, and him, not even realizing that he’s holding my insides in his hand.

I am bereft, not only at losing a husband and a partner, not only at losing all the dreams I had for our future, but also all the dreams I had for my new future. I will be in debt until I’m 90, just to make this work. I will have to give my all, even more than I do now, just to make this work. Again he had the gall to say, “You just need to make lifestyle adjustments,” as though getting rid of the cleaning lady and my taxi budget are just things I’ll adjust to as a single mom who works as a director of a department by day.

His poverty consciousness has kept us in this limbo for far too long. I am fucking done with his inability to understand how this world works. I need to cut the fishing line I’m caught on. Toss me back into the sea with my insides and bank accounts emptied out. I will fill up with fresh energy, cleanse myself, heal and swim again.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

 

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.

Docked

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Blurgh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the world’s waiting for you

I’m trying to channel my inner Wonder Woman today. Trying to be like Gal Gadot, innocent to the obvious and just doing what I’ve been trained to do, to slay on auto pilot. Today is a big day. Or maybe it’s not.

Part one of today that has my stomach churning and me listening to guided meditation is a BIG job interview. For a job that will likely punish me if I get it. But first I have to go in and defeat the second tier bad guys before I can fight the ultimate giant villain.

I am a woman in tech. I may as well be Vulcan. Many of my potential peers in this group (all men) lack empathetic leadership skills (not all of them, mind you). They are driven by robotic success. Breaking this up with my loud, my honest, my lay it all on the table, is appealing to me. I’m also highly intoxicated by the idea that we should embrace new platforms like AR/VR/MR to tell stories. I want to be there when we get the chance to explore this.

The team needs a mom. I know that a lot of feminist business books say not to do this, but frankly, I think some teams need this. When there is too much male energy, it’s often easy to forget to celebrate small victories. Anyway, I don’t want to go into it further, but I do need to SLAY today. I need to convince them that they need me. So that’s the first dragon.

Yesterday I went to therapy to talk through all that’s been going on, which—as always—is a lot. From the minute I emailed her a week ago to say I needed a tune-up, to sitting down on her couch yesterday, my whole world view changed. I went from being sad about my marital breakup, to being excited about everything. It’s like I was trying to turn the TV on and getting frustrated because it wouldn’t and then someone walked over and said, “Oh! You just forgot to plug it in!” Duh!

So the second dragon to slay today is my own fear and anticipation around possibly, maybe having sex with someone new for the first time in two decades. I shaved my legs, put on a sexy new dress and some lacy underpants. He might not be available to go out tonight, and I’ve been burning up with thoughts of kissing for a week. Even if there’s a 10% chance that this could happen, I gotta be prepped. But I need to keep my head cool, to remember that this is just a bit of fun.

This is where I’m at in my journey right now. Learning not to overthink. Learning to not get ahead of myself, to just enjoy the moment. Today is kind of delicious with the possibility of what could be, but I know the lesson I’m supposed to learn is to JUST BE. Easier said than done. I’m not a zen master yet, but I’m training for it.

(If you want to do your head, go read this awesome piece from Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit on what Michael Phelps does to prep to slay. I’d love a similar one on Hilary Clinton, or Beyoncé—what do powerful women do to prepare for a big battle? Where’s my auntie Robin Wright when I need her?)

Send me your good juju please? Kthxbai