Let’s have a wee look up yer kilt

When I said yes to meeting Gavin (Edinburgh, if you’re keeping track of Gap Year cities), I knew he was married. Because when I asked him what the story was, he was completely honest.

“The open relationship is relatively new and weird and works well for us, but I understand it’s not for everyone. I can be of assistance in three ways:

1. I’m old with kids. So I know how hard/fun it all is. I’m not a demanding fellow. I know what I want and I’m finally a good communicator.

2. Sex is best with someone you know. I can read in a park with you. I can nighttime date you and I can lunchtime ramen you. I love talking on the phone and I’d love to throw you down on the couch and make-out.

3. I don’t need a lot so you won’t get any pressure from me. We’re just a middle-aged married couple that has emotionally matured beyond expectation but can also remember being young and dum and into having fun. But I am happily married and don’t wanna blow anything up.”

You guys, this sounds ideal for where I’m at right now. Plus I LOVE talking on the phone. And being thrown down on a couch for make-outs. The only thing that’s bothering me (other than him being married), is that the dating app settings were set to metric, and I have no idea how tall someone is in centimetres. Gavin is a GIANT. Literally the tallest man I know. Taller than Lars of the Peaches, who is my tallest friend.

My house is a wee Hobbit house. My bedroom ceilings are only 6’2. I stupidly built my bathroom under the bulkhead and it’s only 5’7! This dude will not fit in my home.

But he’s married, so he will never need to fit in my home. He just needs to be able to make it to my bed without getting a concussion. And before you get all judge-y, his wife has a steady boyfriend, so this is not a modern way of excusing adultery. If all adults are consenting, then maybe it’s not for us to judge.

Gavin the Giant was supposed to come over Friday night, but I got a nasty head cold and needed to rest. With good reason.


Midweek, midday, on a walk with a female colleague, I butt-dialled Mr. Saturday Night while talking about how big Gavin the Giant’s dick might be. And I left a message.

“Sorry, I butt-dialled you by mistake.” I texted, hoping the butt-dialled message was garbled and incoherent.

“What did your butt want?” SWOON. I adore Mr. Saturday Night, who had tried to engage me several times with some basic “Happy Mother’s Day” (sweet), “Happy [insert public holiday here]” (WTF), and my personal favourite, “Full moon tonight…” He’s mostly a terrible texter, who reveals nothing too personal in writing, but I can’t help but get swoony.

“My booty wanted to know what it would take to get your buns to ask her out sometime.”

“What are you doing Saturday night?”

FUUUUUUUK

I was going to an outdoor concert. I’d bought tickets months ago, thinking, fuck it, I can’t find anyone to go with, it will just work out. And by that I mean, I’d sit on a blanket and run into someone I know. Except by this point, I had a small posse going, including Lars of the Peaches and his wife Zofia and another friend from my writing circles, Matryoshka, who knows Lars from way back to junior high. Matryoshka is a Russian doll of a woman, who looks all sweet on the outside and is full of layers of deep writer inside. She also has two of the cutest, sassiest girls ever.

“I would love to accompany you to THE OUTDOOR CONCERT OF THE YEAR…” Clearly the message my butt left did not come in clearly. Or if it did, this hombre is chill AF and way too sophisticated a dater for a small-fry like me to even be steppin’ to.

SO I PROCEED TO FREAK THE FUCK OUT FOR DAYS WITH NERVES, BECAUSE I’M A FUCKING GUPPY OF A DATER WHO HAS ZEROOOOOOOO CHILL. (We’ve already established this, n’est pas?)

I meet Mr. SN at the venue, which is a historical place that he knows A LOT about as a historian of our city. I am 15 minutes late, which I feel terrible about. Like so bad I’ve convinced myself I should give him head to make up for it. He’s cool and I look good and he immediately notices, but plays it ice cool like he does. He says, “You’re wearing your jewels,” or something like that, noting the crystals around my neck which I fucking baked in the full moon a few nights before, along with my intentions for a good life, because I am now a semi-witch who does this shit. He doesn’t bat a fucking beautiful eyelash, because he’s totally down with witches. SWOON.

OMG you guys, he’s so fucking hot, telling me about the 200-year-old history of the city we live in and the spot on which we stand. He walks me over to a cannon to give me its significance and at this point I’m basically an emoji with hearts for eyes because he’s saying smart shit and he fucking knows it and his confidence on his subject matter is so sexy. Also I am seriously hoping that on Date #4 he’s gonna invite me home after to show me his CANNON. We sit on the deck that supports the cannon and watch some kids playing soccer, while the French Canadian equivalent of Amy Winehouse takes the stage and I just want to sit in the sunshine in this beauty with him for a long time. He suggests we move closer to the stage.

When we get to the stage, I check my phone, because we ran into Matryoshka and her older kid and then she had texted to say she lost her daughter. Meanwhile, Lars messages to ask where I am and I look over and see him. And I know I should give Mr. SN a heads up that I have friends here, but I’m so grateful to see my best guy friend in the wild that I say, “I’ll be right back” and then next thing I know they are meeting. Lars knew to expect Mr. SN. In fact we had a funny text exchange the night before where I joked, “When did I become Lars circa 2009?”

I’m fully excited that Lars meets Mr. SN, because they are both totally my kind of dude who knows shit about this city and can talk dreamily about just about anything smart. It’s funny that intellect is something that attracts me, because my mother always goes on about how my dad was “college educated” but had no social skills or earning potential and I shouldn’t fall for that kind of thing. Sigh.

We smoke some ganja and maybe that wasn’t so smart. Because it’s not what I’ve brought, which is mostly CBD and just super effing relaxing without the head-buzz. It’s Lars’s shit which is kinda heady, and I don’t know how Mr. SN will react. So he kinda goes further into his not-touchy, cool-headed self, while I’m horny AF, but SO FARKING INSECURE that I’m stuck, not able to ask for what I want. And what I want is for this hot piece of walking art to hit on me a little bit, but no dice. Or if he feels like he is, he’s not speaking my language, which is more OPAQUE that a pair of 40+ denier tights. BE A LITTLE OBVIOUS, MAN! Sigh.


If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Ali Ahmed, it’s that a person’s hotness can build up in your mind. Because how Ali sees me, every single time, even with no makeup and a saggy stomach from having two kids, is so incongruous with what I see in the mirror. I know I’m bigging up Mr. SN in my mind and that there’s the risk of it all being disappointing. But I want to find out for reals this time, you know? I don’t want to talk myself out of it due to fear. I know conceptually that it’s probably nothing, but maybe I’m totally wrong about that. Right now, Mr. SN is like a glass of wine that I don’t need to share with anyone else, but who makes me feel amazing when I’m indulging in its company.

If I sit with the Buddhist books I’m reading, I should basically enjoy that Mr. SN and I are both alive and that our aliveness is somehow speaking to each other. But as I have ZERO CHILL, I died a little when I saw the tattoo over his heart peek through his shirt. I wanted to kiss that hairless spot BADLY. But I couldn’t help but feel like our date had grown platonic, my friends being around not helping this situation. We snuck off to eat some paella in the grass together. He produced some hard-boiled eggs, which I’m actually not a fan of, but ate because a man brought them to me like a slaughtered beast, and then I burped egg the whole night after. SPEAK UP, MARIA!

I wanted him to hold my hand. But yet I never reached for his. I was waiting for some bullshit patriarchy version of romance. And he’s smart enough not to fall for that shiz, I think. Because he’s probably played all those roles, to varying effects. And he’s 50 and has even fewer fucks to give than me. But will it work for me? I have had difficulty accepting male energy and detachment in my marriage. Can I accept this now?


We parted ways at the end of the amazing concerts. There was a moment of perfect happiness mid-day, where he was lying back on my picnic blanket, and I leaned back to look up at the quintessentially sky blue sky while my favourite band played, and I was a bit buzzed, this gorgeous human specimen beside me. I looked over at him and smiled, “I’m really happy right now.” And everything about that moment was as true as the sunrise when my second child was born.

The crowd existed en masse and I really felt like he should grab my hand and guide me through the crowd. My ex would have done that. Ali would too. But nope. Maybe he’s a bigger feminist than me? Who knows? He walked with me to my bike, and I STUPIDLY PUT MY HELMET ON, because I was trying to play it cool when he asked me which route I take home, and I sputtered my actual route when what I really wanted to say was, “Which way are YOU going Billy?” Which is not his name but a Susan Jacks song I have on vinyl that my mom always played for me, but considering I’m writing this after three glasses of rose, you’ll have to permit me the indulgence of this bullshit. Our kiss goodnight felt lacklustre. Helmets make heads safe but make kisses too safe for my liking.


I went home and settled it with battery powered devices. I texted Ali the next day to give me a testosterone embrace, fully out of weakness. But I don’t feel bad about it at all. I chose it consciously. And it was perfectly what I needed on that day. I fired up the apps, disappointed at the ending of the date the night before, but not ready to tell Mr. SN what I can’t tolerate, which is someone playing it TOO COOL.

I made a date for Gavin the Giant to come over, but even though he’s all cool about the situation, I can’t shake my puritanical good girl need to understand if I can morally accept that I made that choice. But he’s so fun and flirty. Just SO WHITE and SO TALL and SO MARRIED. How will this go? Is him not needing anything what I need right now? And yet he needs something, and it seems to be flirting and sex. For me that comes at a cost. But what is my value? And what exactly is open for business? I’ve yet to figure that out dear reader. I’ve yet to shag anyone other than Ali. But maybe, just maybe, I’m going to go to a new town just yet. So far, I’m not very good at this Gap Year thing…

As the story unfolds

I hate writing things as they are happening, because you don’t get enough distance and then you can’t really trust if how you’re putting things down is really what’s going on.

My head is kind of spinning today. I published an article about dating after many years of not dating and felt REALLY vulnerable. Like so nervous. I think I respectfully spoke to the end of my marriage without maligning my ex and I probably deserve a medal for that.

And BOOM! The universe opened up. Public messages from friends and loved ones cheering me on. Quiet messages from women in the shadows suffering in silence. Three gay men reached out (OK one of them was Grey), because gay men are the unicorns of the male universe. Two talk shows. Like bananas. And it’s hard to experience that mindfully, because there’s a lot of ego that starts to play a part in how you respond and how you see yourself, which can be dangerous.

I’m not hot shit. I’m a regular average human like you. I’ve got cellulite and a big ol’ zit on my cheek and I should really put my clothes away after taking them off. I have anxieties and neuroses, and an overbearing mother and debt. But I’m choosing to be optimistic, choosing to believe that with effort and focus I can improve my experience here on earth. One day at a time.


After I published the story and shared it on social media, the men started messaging. Only Ali is on my social media accounts, so I doubt the others would have seen it, unless they follow the women’s magazine I wrote for.

The only one I truly care about hearing from is the elusive Mr. Saturday Night. OK and my buddy work-Drew. Le Prof messaged to cancel our date due to flu, and I was relieved because his last text to me was “Do you have high heels?” First off, have you seen me? Obviously dude, and really great ones at that. Second, I don’t want to be somebody’s fetish. I mean yes, I want to explore my sexuality, but if all we ever talk about is how much you want to see my tits, I’m out. BORING! Sigh.

Ali messaged a condescending message, because our relationship has been nothing but stupid since he first decided to come onto his friend (ME) when I was still pretty vulnerable. “Feel better, Maria. Yeah, it’s hard out there.” Turns out he’s thinking about Russian Twinkie again, even though he couldn’t get her off, because they had so much fun together. And now he can’t have her back, because he dicked her around like he dicks every woman around. I resisted the urge to tell him that he’s never attempted to have fun with me outside the bedroom, because I am just done. Instead, I told him, we are all at a buffet. If you’ve got shrimp in front of you and you like shrimp, don’t get too obsessed with the idea that there may be lobster further up the table.

27 messaged, hoping for a date this Saturday. But ever the consummate planner, once I decided that all the men in my current net were not meeting my needs, even as a collective, I made plans to go dancing with girlfriends. In fact I made a lot of plans with girlfriends, because they fill my fucking bucket.

Still, I want to have sex dammit.


Mr. SN texted. And I texting him right back, telling him I was having a conniption fit because my article was published. He waited, and then asked if he could see it. I made the wincey face emoji three times and flipped him the link. He was appropriately complimentary.

Over wine with a friend tonight, I decided I would just be bold. “So questions? I’m here for them?”

He offered similar, “vice versa.” Stalemate, I replied, who goes first? He responded with “ladies first, always.” And then, “Even as a feminist…”

Hot. Why does he get so up into my brain?! He’s fucking cool as a cucumber, or that’s how it feels, and I (as we WELL know) have ZERO CHILL!

I was probably too eager in my question responses. So stalemate again. I’m learning that men are skittish creatures and not to take it personally. I’m learning that I have to temper my intensity a bit. I can’t help it, but I think if I’m more mindful, I can keep it in check. My more experienced friends suggested that I calm down. #slowyourroll has become our new hashtag. I joke that I’m gonna tattoo it on my forehead. Maybe if I gave myself a rule, like wait an hour before responding unless it’s critical, I could CTFD. I’ve definitely learned that sleeping on it is a great way to deal wit lots of things that seem urgent or stressful at 10/11pm.

As a feminist, I just want the opportunity to be myself and ask for what I want, but perhaps, as my pal pointed out, I’m rushing things. I don’t even know what I want yet. I don’t. I’m just scratching the surface.  And it’s going to take a LOT more bad dates and dates who aren’t showing up how I’d like before I even know! I’m just gonna keep doing me, keep writing the good write, going to yoga and therapy and pushing forward. If you’re into personal growth, I’m here for it!

Ooh-la-la

So I went to “Paris” on Thursday, and I’ve been to the moon a few times since then. Mr. Saturday Night fizzled rather than sizzled alas, but once I changed my perception of my current predicament with men and focused on thinking about it as a gap year, something began to shift. It’s only been a few days, but I can feel the difference in my mind and it’s powerful. More to come on that.

Monsieur Le Professeur and I had been texting in a dating app a little while ago. He’s extremely handsome, 50 and French AF. Separated, two kids and, most notably, has a public and a private persona. When we realized we were on opposite kid-free weekends, he suggested we meet for lunch. I ran out of a meeting and walked at lightening speed in the rain to get to the French restaurant, forgetting to look at my phone, where he’d messaged to say he was going to be late. So I ordered a Prosecco and texted with my handsome, adorable British GBF, let’s call him Grey (because he’s a greyhound of a man without an ounce of body fat on him), and also with Drew (my divorce buddy from work, who is fast becoming one of my closest friends). Grey was in a mood so we started imagining my wedding to Drew (“you guys can come in on horses”) and had a good giggle. Drew was nervous about a date he had the next night and so I talked him through that and he wished me well with the Frenchman.

(Truth be told, I’m fixing Drew up with a friend of mine, because I’ve tried to take our friendship outside of work a few times and nothing has materialized, so probably best to stay friends.)

When Monsieur Le Professeur, finally appeared, he was extremely apologetic for getting stuck at work. I meant to get up and give him a double cheek kiss greeting, to show that I know my way around a Frenchy, but he hurriedly sat down and started talking. Our conversation was flirty, we have the same dry sense of humour, and it was immediately apparent that we were well-matched intellectually. And fuck, what woman does not get totally turned on by a French accent? I may be trying to get to Zen Master status, but I go weak in the knees when he stumbles on his English and reverts to French. Serendipitously my 1:30pm meeting was cancelled and I had a bit of time to linger and get the full benefit of our time together.

Unlike most of the other guys I’ve dated (save for Felipe the Brazilian), he texted later that night to say he was thinking of me and how much he enjoyed our time together. “Equal Enthusiasm” has shot up to the top of my list of requirements for moving on to the next round and Le Prof definitely passed.


I went to therapy the next day to level-set. “I need to talk about my fear of sex and my Madonna/Whore complex,” I said frankly. I desperately need to explore what it means to own my desires—fuck, we all do! Most women have been taught to bottle it in for fear of being a “slut.” Many men have been taught that they are not responsible for theirs and that they can do whatever they want when their desire arises. This is maybe why I love gay men so much. Many realize early on that they can’t fight their desires, which society has always frowned upon, so their culture celebrates the entire freaky spectrum of sexuality.

My therapist worked through it with me. Religious uprbringing? Check! Sexual assaults? Yeppers! I’ve got a whole post sitting in drafts about my hangups with sex. But basically, I have a lot of shame around sex. And some of that comes from my marriage, where my endless desire was positioned as a negative. I have the sexual appetite of a “man.” I know what I want. I want to speak it out loud. But I’ve been afraid to for so long.

My therapist also wants me to add other notches on my belt. She said that by the sounds of it, Mr. Saturday Night was not going to show up for me the way I needed him to and that Le Prof is the one I should go forward with in terms of sexual exploration. So, alons-y!

“What are you going to do about Ali,” she asked. The answer is fucked. I’m not ready to let him go, even though he’s consistently inconsiderate, even though that relationship does not feed me. He’s my training wheels, and I’m not quite steady on this sexual bike ride without them just yet. I mean, he’s a sure thing… WHEN he shows up.


Le Prof swiped through my profile, pointing out why he decided we could meet. “La première chose que j’ai remarquée est que vous souriez. Ce n’est pas garanti!”  He noticed my smile, which apparently not all women do when trying to look sexy in an app. “You look like a happy person!”

Then he proceeded to assess the percentage match that the algorithm had given us in terms of match potential. “94% Dating, good! 86% Lifestyle, très bien… Sex, 74%. You have to do better,” he said with a smirk and a dirty Frenchman’s twinkle in the eye.

“I’m going to guess I haven’t answered enough questions,” I countered. “Also, do you want to let an algorithm cheat you out of what could be a really hot experience?” I texted later when he asked if I was doing my homework. Answering the sex survey in the app made it very clear: He’s way more kinky and sexual than I am. I still have this fear that holds me back. After therapy on Friday, I decide I’m going to let him do the driving and see what happens.


The first night after meeting, he texted, as I mentioned. And it got a little flirty. And I put him in his place in a way that would keep him wanting more. He kept asking for photos. At first, a selfie, I thought I would suffice. He sent me one too, first in a jacket, and then without the jacket. “Your turn,” he quipped.

“Pace yourself, cowboy,” I replied. He didn’t understand, because French! “Sorta like ‘Soyez patient!'” I told him. He said patience is his worst quality or something lost in translation that should have alerted me to the fact that he was gonna be asking for more than selfies in a hurry. I manage to hold him off with, “Oh but if I behave you will get bored so quickly,” which he loves.

The next night, he asked if I was interested in sexting. I was apprehensive (because ME: scared of men’s desires!), but as I’d just discussed exploring my sexual self with him via the therapist, I thought, OK, why not? Let’s give it a try. I knew I was going out and would be tipsy when I got home.

I got home from a fundraiser, HAMMERED. I hit on Theo while we were trading off for the night and he was wise enough to just leave. We had a good laugh though. Then I had my first sext. That’s right. I have never sexted before. I mean, if I was ever going to do it, it was when Theo was living in another city for work, but we were so broken then.

So I sexted, while drunk, and it escalated quickly. He begged for photos, so I got creative, making sure I had some clothing on and that my face was never in the shot. And it was fun, and HOT! I could get the hang of this!


The next day, I was so horny that I messaged Ali, after he went through my entire social feed liking everything. I figured, he’s online and thinking about me, maybe I’ll tell him about my escapades! I’ll admit, I was feeling cocky, like perhaps I could juggle a few men at the same time for a bit. As it turned out, Ali was watching movies with a “chick friend.” Because of course. He’s got a woman on his couch and he’s looking at photos of me. For what? Inspiration? Am I like some kind of virtual fluffer?

I felt like a fool, because I’ve mostly been avoiding Ali since he never messages me unless he wants sex. But something about the high I felt after Le Prof made me try to attempt vulnerability with him again. I can’t help thinking that I’m getting Ali all wrong. Yet whenever I attempt to get close to him or to get to the next plane, he disappears. Ugh.

Meanwhile, Le Prof is now insatiable. He wants to “play” nightly. I participate two nights in a row, but this ain’t Victoria’s Secret, and by the third night, the pressure to look a certain way to keep up the game exhausts me and I cancel our nightly text chat so that I could watch Beychella and fold laundry (which was INFINITELY more rewarding, frankly). He is the cliche of a 50-something Frenchman. He wants to take me shopping for lingerie. He asks if I have high heels. He begs for one final photo each night. It’s all a bit much.

Here’s what’s not sitting well with me:

a) Don’t I just want to date a normal guy in the traditional way for a while? Or have I tried that already? Or is that just a unicorn at this point?

b) Will I ever even meet a “normal guy”? (Drew at work is the closest to normal straight male.)

c) If I do decide to play with my sexuality in a more risqué way, how do I reconcile being a feminist with also being a man’s fetish in garters and heels?

d) Do I really want to start a relationship with someone who has the energy to sext every single night?

And still, I’m committed to seeing if Le Prof can CTFD enough to get what might be good out of this. I’m seeing him tomorrow night, in a public place, just for a drink. If I’m going to pursue this for a few weeks, I need to beef up the vocabulary of an impudent North American lover who sets boundaries in a flirty way with her Frenchman. I mean, I gotta go there at least once, right? Maybe this is the perfect experience to play with expressing what I want, understanding my desires? Still, so scared. And honestly, bored. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

 

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.

 

So free

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

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

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

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

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

#3… smitten. Just like that.

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

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

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

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

On self-confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Sexual self-care

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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