Keep moving

Mr. Saturday Night sent a text about his adorable dog, 24 hours after my text thanking him for our lovely night out. Which, not sure what I’m supposed to do with that, but experiencing my own impatience mindfully has been interesting.

If this is indeed my Gap Year, then why am I freaking out because I’m smitten with London? I still have all of Europe to explore! I haven’t even been to South America! There’s a whole world of experiences out there. Why the pressure to hang out in one city for so long?

Here’s the thing: Dating strangers is hard. I mean aside from having to take precautions as a woman to protect yourself from creeps. It takes a lot of energy to talk to strangers and get their stories, and then assess what their stories mean about them and how their stories might intertwine with your own stories. Where will the pain points be? What will trigger you?

You end up reading between the lines. Like when Date #4 (I haven’t told you about him yet) talked about his marriage ending, he kept stumbling and glossing over some key painful memory — that I assume means he eventually cheated on his wife and he doesn’t want to talk about it, because that would mean justifying his behaviour. And then I have to assess, do I see him as “Once a cheater, always a cheater?” Or do I accept that this human fucked up because he was hurting and has since found the language and the means of expression (he paints) to work through it?

What about him will piss me off? What about me will piss him off?

Dating strangers takes time, and coordination. It’s a volume game—you gotta kiss a lot of seemingly sweet frogs (and a few toads) before you find the prince, or something like that. I don’t believe in fairy tales anymore (pretty sure that The Princess Bride ruined me for life), but the frog/prince analogy does stand up when it comes to setting your dating expectations.

Then someone captures your imagination and suddenly all you can think about in boring meetings is how much you want to fast forward to the date where he takes your clothes off. Except you don’t really want that to happen so fast, because what if he’s bad in bed and then this part of the fantasy is no longer delicious and now you have different things to occupy your brain? Ugh. It’s a lot for a neurotic over-thinker to deal with.

And is the end result worth it? Lasting love is so rare and so much work. So really what we are banking on is the smiley, giddy, floaty feelings of early love. We are, as a society, addicted to the feelings of early love. Many of us do not see the payoff from the effort required for love to evolve into a thing of beauty; a sharp, jagged piece of glass that’s been slammed against the shore so many times that it becomes perfectly polished beach glass that you want to put in a jar and admire.


I also have to remember that not every “city” I travel to in my Gap Year will cause me pain. I have to resist the desire to be pain-averse. I have to resist the urge to never let another man make me cry again. Because love is worth it.

I think. I have been taught to believe. And in the meantime, learning how to be friends with men, determining which kinds of men will feed me and fuel me forward into my journey, well that’s the lesson of the Gap Year.

And because dating is so tough and leaves one so vulnerable, the urge to stop and put roots in the first “city” I find adorable is an impossible pull to resist. You want to explore. You’ve only seen the shop windows, you don’t have a favourite bar yet. You’re just getting your bearings. But hey girl, don’t stress, you’re gonna breeze back through here the moment someone sends you a ticket.

Head to the next city. See what it’s about. How do you feel there? What will you learn? Don’t get attached. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t start fantasizing about bringing all your friends to be charmed by this city (I am so doing this with Mr. SN already – mentally planning outings with him and the friends of mine who will adore him).

That’s the other thing. Is part of the pull of Mr. SN the fact that he’s so fucking charming? We are all looking for mirrors, aren’t we? Am I smitten because he adds value to my identity or because he adds spirit to my soul? I dunno, but I like this town. My brain is growing in this town, this town makes my stomach flip flop, so I’m definitely coming back to London. I’m not done exploring yet.

But in the meantime, I’ve got a trip to Paris booked on Thursday.

Show me, show me, show me

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

 

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


So, “Friday!”

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

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

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

“Sounds great, I hope you mean me.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience.

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

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

 

My gap year

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

madgeskinnybrows

“You look like a whore.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

Mr. Saturday Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

So free

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

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

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

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

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

#3… smitten. Just like that.

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

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

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

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

Random thoughts from earlier this week that needed an edit

**Giving this another path because stream of consciousness dictating into your phone is not quite the technology it needs to be yet.

I have a Theo reunion fantasy playing in my head as of late. It might be because I’m ready to start dating again. Well, I’m not ready, but it feels like maybe I should give it a shot. Of course this coincides with Theo and I getting along better than we have in over a decade. Suddenly he is the thoughtful, appreciative, giving human being that I fell in love with. And I know it’s a trap. I know in my heart of hearts that this can only exist because we are not together. And that is so fucking sad. Because at our best we were magic. We were the mystical wonders who made two incredible human beings out of love.

So here is how my fantasy goes. He asks me out, simple. He takes me somewhere awesome, maybe our usual spot, a dark little bourbon bar that has great food. He does something chivalrous— a romantic, sweeping gesture like he did when we were first together. He’s assertive with the kids when they ask where we’re going. “I’m taking your mother out to show her that I appreciate all that she does.”

After dinner he walks me home and he tells me he can’t live without me. He takes me up to the top step, right by the door that opens into the house we bought together so many years ago. And then with me on the top step, with him down a step to even out our height difference, he tilts my chin towards his face and suddenly he kisses me in the way that only he knows how.

Suddenly I’m engulfed by the mouth I know intimately and by heart. This goes on for sometime. Weeks go by. We go to our social worker to get her blessing and surprisingly she gives it to us. He moves back in. We make plans to get a bigger place because suddenly he doesn’t fit here anymore. And this house is full of sad memories that the happy ones don’t quite erase. He makes me coffee every morning, like he does now, except he brings it down to my bed each day with a kiss and the look of tenderness.

Edited to add: Looking at this description again, I realize that none of it is about sex. If I read it back to myself, it’s about being noticed and appreciated just as I am. It’s about connection and value. And frankly, now that I will be exposed to more sexual adventures, I’m realizing that it’s not a priority for me. That, for me, good sex is a byproduct of connection and intimacy. It’s important but it’s not the tentpole. It’s just indicative of the health of a relationship.


We do nice things for each other now, and these days we actually notice them. So getting back together feels so natural in that way. But I have to remember that the reason there is no resentment is because we don’t live together. And yet when I look at him some days, and overwhelming desire to hold him in my arms and kiss his face takes over. And I’m so scared to say it out loud. Because we tried that for so many years and it only ended in heartbreak. And I can’t possibly imagine myself doing that again.

Today I realized I’m not crying as much as I was a year ago, and that was profound. I posted an Instagram story to commemorate that moment with that realization. I’m happy here, now. I feel it, and Theo’s happier too. Neither of us seems to be enjoying dating. Above all else he really misses his time with the kids. And I struggle when events happen with three of us that the fourth person can’t participate in because of the separation. In some ways it would be so easy to go back to how we were. Except, it wouldn’t. I know this and yet the fantasy lingers. I wonder if it’s the same for the kids.


My daughter is at that age where she’s getting pre-pubescent hormonal nightmares (she’ll be 11 this summer). She came down to my basement bedroom in a tizzy last night around 10:30. I told her to crawl into my bed, as there’s space to do that now that her dad is living in an apartment a 10-minute drive away.

“I’m feeling really scared right now,” she said in a small voice. I told her that I knew the feeling, that she is so much braver than I was at her age, that I had been afraid of a lot of things, growing up with post-genocidal anxiety that was handed from my grandmother to my mother and down to me. “I used to be scared of bees, animals, of my own shadow!”

“What are you afraid of now?”

“Well I’m always the most worried that something terrible could happen to you or your brother. The second thing I was always most worried about was that your dad and I wouldn’t be together. (Pause.) But that happened… and I survived.”

“You know what? You’re stronger since dad left.”

“How so?”

“Well you used to rely on dad to do lots of things for you. Because he was your man. He was THE man in house. But now, YOU’RE the man. You’re the man-woman.”

Whoa-man. Heart-swell. Kids say the darndest things.

Everything’s coming up Winehouse

Every time I go to hang at my friend Lars’s house, he puts on Back to Black on vinyl for me. It was the tail end of summer and he’d just enthusiastically procured flats of peaches and called me over for our annual canning session. His wife Zofia and I poach, pit and peel, but Lars is the sterilization and syrup master. He runs a tight ship. And that’s part of the joke, really. He’s so stern with us, that we invoke sulky teenagers who are forced to spend time doing chores when we’d rather be riding bikes.

Every January when I open a jar of summer, I say a prayer of thanks to my friend for insisting we do this crazy thing that takes a whole day and wrinkles our fingers and stickies up the floor, with an adorable terrier trying to trip us the whole time.

He plays the epic Winehouse LP on every visit, because one time, before Zofia was in the picture, we went to karaoke together and I sang “Rehab.” And whether he has a clear memory of this or not (I’ve never asked), Lars has somehow connected me to Amy Winehouse in his mind. A fellow big schnoz babe with a furry face, I love Winehouse, but to be honest, I never REALLY listened to Winehouse, at least not with intent until this past holiday season.


I am a big lover of Christmas. It’s my jam. I’ve always made a big production of it, for my entire life. I’m the girl who starts playing Christmas music in November. IDGAF, I love the ridiculousness of the whole thing. It’s the same reason I love Celine Dion, or period films. I love pomp and circumstance. I love overt gestures. I love when anything is done big and loud and proud.

But this Christmas I was a mess. I spent Christmas Eve with my parents (watching a period piece). I woke up early Christmas morning and drove out to my ex-in-laws in a snowstorm, to watch my kids open their gifts. It was the first of maybe 19 Christmas Eves that I did not spend with all of them, at my ex-MIL’s house. And it was ROUGH. My ex-MIL, who is not evil (not since she stopped being shitfaced daily anyway) gave me a passive aggressive greeting card. It said, “Merry Christmas to the both of you.”  Which was kind of hilarious, but also she didn’t do it for any sense of irony, just “why waste a perfectly good card?”

I spent NYE completely alone. By choice. I made a bubble bath and bought myself a baby bottle of Veuve, moved the TV to the bathroom and rang in the New Year watching Call the Midwife. Hashtag: #doublebubbles. But leading up to all that was so fucking painful. I don’t even know if I fully understood that pain. It was like when I went to go get my tattoos. I was in a trance, completely out of body—no, the opposite, so completely in my body, but also in that quiet room in my brain. The holidays were like that, too. I was getting through, but going into the panic room in my mind, hiding the bodies there.

And so my love affair with Winehouse began. Because listening to someone else spilling their entire soul into a work of art was preferable to tuning into my own.


For you I was a flame
Love is a losing game
Five story fire as you came
Love is a losing game
One I wish I never played
Oh what a mess we made
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game

Theo and I have been talking. He has been making eyes at me again, but I have not indulged, even if it would feel really goddamn good. One Friday night, he asked if he could buy me a drink while waiting for our daughter to come out of music lessons. I should not have had a second bourbon cocktail in under 30 minutes. But I did, and I started to reveal things and to ask things. I told him that I was kind of seeing someone, if you could call it that. When he asked if I could take our daughter the next day (it was my weekend off), I told him about Ali and our impending date the next night. Then I told him how Ali is in his thirties and can go three rounds in three hours and how he’s just for me right now, just for fun. I shouldn’t have. And yet… was there a part of me that wanted Theo to hurt?

Then, boomerang to the face.

“I was seeing someone too,” he said quietly. When pressed, it turned out she was a young woman he used to work with. A 20-something ballerina, because OF COURSE. And I should know better. Boundaries, blah, blah, blah. But I went there. WE went there. I saw her tall, perfect-postured, size-ZERO photo. “What was it like, being with her,” I found myself asking. “Do you really want to know?”

“Yeah.”

“Well she was young, so she really wanted… to learn.”

“Aww, your teaching degree finally came in handy!” Laughter from both of us. He told me she was ultimately boring and not funny, so it pilfered out. Yeah mofo, because this kind of humour comes from crazy and crazy is work! “Are we friends now?” he asked. Sure, I replied, why not. It was one of those “fuck it” moments where suddenly you are going there, like when you have a Big Mac combo (and maybe a McNugget appetizer) and it seemed so fine and cool when you decided to do it, but the next day you feel like total shit.

But somehow the thing that has survived this fucked up scorched earth of a year is our friendship. It’s like the cockroach in Wall-E, it refuses to be incinerated. It’s here to stay, in this ugly, unforgiving landscape. Because there’s still life on this planet.


Played out by the band
Love is a losing hand
More than I could stand
Love is a losing hand
Self professed, profound
‘Til the chips were down
Know you’re a gambling man
Love is a losing hand

We had another boundary issue when Theo walked in on my “session” with Ali on the weekend. And that is a really funny story that I want to tell in full humour mode, not in this sulky, “who the fuck am I and where did this all go wrong” mindset. But let’s just say we now have a code in place and it’s called “going offline for a few hours,” which I thought was really apparent while being subtle when I texted that, but apparently not, because SURPRISE! Anyway, lesson learned.

The day after THAT incident, we all went to the movies as a family and it was nice. I like that we can hang out. It’s awesome for the kids. But it’s also confusing because fuck, don’t we all just want to be a family in the real way again? Like if you eat vegan cheese all the time, don’t you sometimes just want to go down on a double cream Brie? Don’t you wish you could stay there forever without enslaving cows?

Let’s just say that it’s been a month of openness and transparency and that’s lead to some comfortableness in what we are sharing and how we are talking to each other. So we went to what I will forever refer to as “the Big Mac” place again today. I texted him to ask if I could have a second weeknight off during the weeks, now that the job he’s working on is wrapping up. He was weird about it, like why would I be asking for more equal distribution of time with the kids? Or maybe he was miffed that I said it was 75/25 right now (pretty damn close when you add it up). He doesn’t count the hours they sleep in my house, he only counts awake time, so you can see where this gets complicated.

I was honest and said, “Look I’m going to start dating with intention soon, not just fucking around, and I need time to be able to explore that.” And that turned into a looooong text exchange and he was left feeling like the one who just ate a Big Mac I think. There’s always that moment where I think, he could just come out and say it! Just ask! I would consider it. Because I still love him, though not in the same way I suppose. Deep down I am still that girl who wanted her father to love her, who became the woman who wanted her husband to love her. I got my father’s love in adulthood, when I let go of needing him to be like other fathers. But would I, could I, ever get the same with Theo?


 

I finished my fave breakup podcasts: Alone, A Love Story, A Single Thing and the ex-husband/ex-wife combo that did the fantastic Our Ex-Life podcast decided to call it quits on the cast, because the dude started dating someone seriously and I think it bugged her. So today I started Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? Coincidentally, the day that Theo told me that he no longer wanted to be romantically involved with me, I began listening to Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity.

The premise is that Perel gets one counselling session with couples in crisis, and each episode reveals the massive fault lines under the bedrock of every kind of marriage. The second episode, with two moms struggling to make each other feel special and loved under the weight of little kids destroyed me. Because I found myself back in the place I lived in for so long, where I wanted to desperately for Theo to feel loved, and I wanted to feel loved and appreciated myself.

There was talk of defining roles. One person has to be the planner of the date, the other person has to be the planner of the logistics of the children so the date can happen. And these women, they so clearly loved each other, you could hear it. They were just missing the path to connection over and over again. And that’s when I started sobbing uncontrollably in the car.

“He couldn’t do it, remember! You were doing it ALL. All the roles were you. And he kept saying that he didn’t have the capacity to love you how you needed to be loved. He refused to meet you halfway. He refused to date you. He kept saying the children came first and you kept telling him that making time as a couple was ultimately good for the children and he refused because he didn’t want to be with you and you just have to fucking accept that!” my inner voice screamed. Heck, I may have said some of that out loud.

Every, single time I think about getting back together, my wound reveals itself, reminds me that our marriage was cast aside like an orange rind. Like something that was once so whole and perfect, it contained all of our life, but now there was no putting it back together or seeing it the same way. It was refuse, and we were left exposed, vulnerable, thin-skinned, in pieces.

Though I betted blind
Love is a fate resigned
Memories mar my mind
Love, it is a fate resigned
Over futile odds
And laughed at by the gods
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game


I went down the Winehouse rabbit hole in the dark months of winter. I listened to Back to Black on repeat. “I died a hundred times,” she sings on the title track, and didn’t I feel exactly that? I wanted to know every lyric, every inflection. I wanted to crawl inside her hurt and wear it like a blanket. The album became the holding place for my own pain, like a machine I could put my broken heart in to have it come out as polished as beach glass. Garbage, but pretty garbage. Smooth garbage that could become something worth looking at.

Then I watched the movie.

I’d been putting off watching Amy, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, because kind of like watching Titanic, you know how it’s going to end and it’s not pretty. And man did I ache, watching a talent so rare be destroyed by the media machine and by her own hand. To be consumed by heartache. To live in the place of longing and worthlessness. It’s so terrible to watch a bright spark be unable to see the shiny diamond she is. I think my friends felt this about me, too. My relationship consumed me and anger ate me from the inside out. I was mentally bulimic. I would put good things inside me in the form of experiences or art or meditation, only to barf it out to make room for the demons. I just wanted him to see his fault in it all, as if somehow that was the way out. As if somehow that would make it all better. Instead it took us both down, like the heroin did Amy and Ray-Ray.


The day Lars, Zofia and I canned the peaches, it became clear that we needed help if we were to get it done with an evening to spare. So I texted Theo to ask if he and the kids would mind helping us. So they joined us, pitched in, laughed and in the end we all went up to the roof deck for shawarma as the sun set, pink and orange on our famous city skyline.

So we are history
The shadow covers me
The sky above
A blaze that only lovers see

This family, it’s not quite a masterpiece, but it’s a work in progress.

The peaches? Perfection.