I’m working on a speech/talk for a big event I’m co-hosting this weekend, but I can’t shake my annoyance so I’m going to use this space to work through it. It’s been a week (isn’t it always? Is it like this for everyone?) and I’ve needed some emotional support.
I’m lucky enough to have a caring circle of friends and family. Friends texted and DM’ed and called after the initial news of work changes last week. My parents called me Monday to check in on me, because I had a big offer coming my way that needed reviewing so I could assess my future. My parents, being pessimists, assumed this meant I was losing my job, so they worried. But all was fine, the offer was as good as could be expected given the circumstances. In essence everything is fine, except it’s not.
Everything is fine in that after years of cuts, this week (maybe even this whole year) we all have jobs. That’s good. But as an industry under constant fire, we all have a bit of PTSD. We’re all a little shell-shocked, so we look gift horses in the mouth because we no longer believe in good things. We no longer believe someone could just want us for us, for our talent, experience and creativity. For what we produce. Even good things, we think, will only last a short amount of time before our work families are inevitably destroyed, our craft eroded yet again. And yet, we are still here, still trying to tell the truth every damn day.
And I think where I’m struggling is that everything in my life feels precarious like this. I’m scarred from my experiences, and as a passionate person I want things to succeed, to flourish: my children, my garden, my relationships, my work… I know, through my meditation and Buddhism studies, that this is par for the course, that I must accept that I have no control over this and accept the “is-ness of the now” or risk suffering. So I’m fully aware that my suffering is at my own hand/thought.
I feel grounded but then it’s like I overdo it and then I’m a mess again. I’m good with Monsieur Magique being the way he is, I tell myself, CONVINCE myself, and then he does not connect with me for THREE WHOLE DAYS on a week where I need a check-in and a laugh, and I’m doubting everything again. How can this person, who has shown time and time again that I will be priority #3, be enough for me? Am I looking at this all wrong?
Even on my busiest days, I have time to send a quick note. But then again, I have an easily distractable brain and enjoy interruptions. What does it say about him that even while waiting to board a flight, or sitting in his hotel room on a travel day, that he cannot be bothered to send a note?
When we are together, this is not a problem. He’s present. We connect. We enjoy each other. But in between, while he’s in touch more frequently than Mr. SN was, there’s the same feeling of lack. Lack of interest or curiosity in me and how I’m doing. Is that just my ego flaring up. Should I continue to be confident in what is? Why is it that I can’t be OK with this?
Ultimately a relationship is a partnership of equals. My job, my career, is not just a fun thing to talk about at parties (though it is very fun and cool). It matters to me. I’m invested in my team and my organization as a whole. I believe in what we do. My passions are a huge part of who I am. So if I’m stressed about a particular event in that space, I would hope to get some support or inquiry from the person who should be the most interested in being supportive. And here we now have the biggest red flag of all. The not calling/texting IS an issue after all, because it suggests a self-involvement or prioritization of his tasks/issues above anything to do with me. It’s not equal.
Now I get it, MM’s freshly back from the EU. Jetlagged. Working AND parenting at full throttle. I have compassion there, I do. This is not all about me. But I’m trying to see how this is gonna go, and the actions say, “I don’t have time for you right now.” Sigh. Gonna ride this feeling of discomfort out and see what happens, keep an eye out for patterns. When in doubt, do nothing.
So while I haven’t heard from my “maybe boyfriend,” my ex-husband has gone out of his way on all fronts this week. Weird! Texts asking about my day, about my event Saturday, general cheerleading from the sidelines about how lucky our kids are to have me. I’m not going to read into this further, I’m just going to appreciate that now that we are not together, he’s become more of the man I needed him to be when we were.
And now that I’ve barfed that out, back to the speech-writing.
Monsieur Magique was headed to Europe for a week of business and visiting his parents. He asked if I was able to switch up my co-parenting schedule so that I could come see him before he flew out. My ex, who is a lot of things, but chiefly a lovely, kind man who wants me to be happy, was good enough to accommodate and take the kids so I could connect with MM before he left. (Yes we are THAT open with each other as exes. It oddly works for us.)
I was worried that MM would not leave work again, so I texted to say I was making reservations near his office. He replied that he was thinking takeout and chill at his home and could I come by for 8. He’s on the opposite side of the city from me, so I decided to go straight from the office and therefore had some time to kill. I had my nails painted “Bastille My Heart,” bought a little lingerie set (silky, lacy shorts and a tank plus something to throw over for breakfast the next morning), two tarts for dessert and headed over.
I wore my favourite red pixie pants with a navy silk tee and straightened my hair. He misses NOTHING. “Ooh, I like this! You’re wearing the French colours!” Coincidentally, I redid my whole wardrobe, a la capsule collection recommendations (stick to a colour palate) before going to Spain in 2017 and bleu, blanc, rouge is a BIG part of my closet. We quickly fell into easy chatter, had Lebanese food and Spanish wine and all my worries were addressed in one very wonderfully honest conversation.
“I’m sorry we didn’t go out to eat,” he began. “I don’t feel good about this. It’s always the same and I’m sorry. We meet late, we eat something, we’re probably going to have sex later…” hinting at a pattern.
“Oh are you sure about that?” I teased.
“I’m just so busy with work and the girls. I want you to know that I want to take you out. I want to do fun things with you. I don’t want to rush from work and then off to work again. I’m sorry it’s not turning out like that.”
“Magique,” I said with kindness in my eyes, “You made it very clear from our first date that work and the girls are your priority this year. Do I like to go out? Of course! But I am very good at filling my time with fun and don’t need a man to make that happen. What I’m not so good at is slowing down. And to be honest, this enforced relaxation has been really nice, because I’ve never met someone who made me WANT to stay home before.”
And I meant it, honestly. I do want to take this relationship out on a test drive with friends, of course. But I also get that with all the travel he does, he craves staying home. I have a full dance card all the time, so taking time to rest is becoming increasingly important as I grow older. And I’m terrible at it, because I want to do ALL THE THINGS! I want to see ALL THE PEOPLE! So having this sanctuary with him, well, it’s turning out to be exactly what I didn’t know I needed.
He balked and apologized some more, so I looked at him and smiled, “I don’t want to add to your stress or your guilt. Your stress is often palpable, it’s so present, but you can still be light and funny despite it and that says a lot. I have learned from YOU. You are such a clear communicator about your availability that if I don’t hear from you, I find I’m not spinning about whether or not you like me. You have always been so confident that this was going to be a thing. So I just trust that this is going to happen in its own time. I’m not in a rush. I will text you on occasion when you cross my mind and you can respond when you’re able. And if you have time for me, you let me know.”
He softened and smiled, a thousand suns shining from his beautiful blue eyes. I see you. We connect on a level so deep that sometimes I wonder if I’m imagining it.
The rest of the night needed some adjustments, and I realize that there’s something in each of us from our pasts that made it this way and upon reflecting over the past week, I have a good sense as to what’s happening here.
After dinner, he made a quip about wanting to play hide and seek and I missed the cue. So instead, I ended up sitting on the couch and we stayed up until nearly 2am playing “The Best Duets Ever” contest on YouTube. As in, we’d each think of a duet and then say it into the Apple TV remote to pull it up and then we’d laugh as we watched the performance. “Go gently,” he teased, putting the remote’s microphone to my mouth, “It’s used to a soft, French voice.” Swoon.
We were snuggling and touching the entire time but why neither of us jumped each other’s bones, I don’t know. Except, well, I know my side of it. I’m paralyzed by my past experience with Theo. With Theo, after the kids were born and especially after we realized that I get pregnant at the drop of a hat, I was called a “nympho” for wanting sex as much as I did. I could initiate sometimes, but I could not guarantee his participation, and I certainly could not guarantee that he’d be invested in my orgasms.
But MM and I are in our 40s now, so going to bed at 2am is going to guarantee that sex is not an A+ scenario. He’s stressed and tired, and I had stuff on my mind too (THE FUCKING BOIL that will not DIE), so neither of us could really get into it. I mean, we did OK, but it was like “sex five years in” sex, not “we just met and want to bone all the time” sex. It’s full of comfort and warmth but lacks some of the experimentation and unexpectedness of what I experienced with my last two lovers.
I spent the next day wondering if sex matters that much when everything else is so great. And then I realized I was being a dolt. I can tell this man ANYTHING. So why is talking about bedroom stuff so nerve-wracking? And what’s with this idea that everything has to be 100% exactly right, right out the gate?
Good things take time. They evolve through respect and trust, one conversation at a time. And if I am truly in no rush, then I should just relax and know that someone who cares about me will care about my pleasure too, and will make time for my pleasure. I need to stop taking the past to bed with me. I need to be more forward, too. And if sex is not as important to him, I have a right to ask why, to try to crack that nut, and to express that I’m a highly sexual being who will not hold back her desire or make concessions for it. I don’t have the same life pressures I felt in my twenties. There’s no clock or life list forcing me to get off the dating train here. It’s a choice.
I sent him a text to say I’d made it home from his place the next day, thanking him for a lovely time. He took a few hours, but responded later with a heartfelt thank you that I had switched things up to see him. “Chilling with you is just so comfortable and pleasant.” I asked him to send me a postcard. Let’s see if it shows up. I’m curious about my feelings should it not materialize.
He has messaged me from Europe nearly every day since the vacation part started. He has been sending photos of where he spends his days and even a photo of his parents. Then he told me that he told his mum about me, that “funny, light-spirited” Maria. That he showed her photos. That she said I looked, “douce.”
“I told my mom about you, too.” I felt 17.
This morning I woke up to a photo of a sunrise. “Sharing my sunrise for your rise…” He’s on a plane home. I decided to risk it all and reply with,”You are the most wonderfully romantic man I’ve ever met. Thank you for sharing your last French sunrise. I don’t know how I will be able to last two more weeks without being able to wrap my arms around you, but I’m really happy we found each other. Welcome home, Magique.”
Home. Feels a bit like we are starting to build the foundations of one together. I feel it in my solar plexus. But I gotta stay in the now. Only time will tell. I’m going to get up the courage to write down my vision for a future, just to keep myself from getting scared of it.
It’s hard to believe it’s only been two short months. 70 days at best. And yet I feel as though I’ve always known him, Monsieur Magique. I feel so SEEN, because although many of our interests are different, our spirits, our energy, our values are so aligned. He seems to just GET me. Sometimes it’s like looking into a mirror and seeing a smarter, more logical version of myself.
Except there are things I have mastered that he aspires to. I bring something to the picnic too, big time. Through hard work, focused learning and constant dedication to prioritizing what fuels me, I’ve got my stress and self-care in check. His desperate need to make time for relaxation means that my desire to reduce my tendency to overschedule myself is addressed through our time together. My planning brain doesn’t need to change drastically. On the contrary, its enhanced by creativity, trying to find fun new ways to rest or create de-stressing. It’s self-love partnered with caring for this man, who fell from the sky and anchored me to the universe. It’s less about doing and more about being.
I’m going backwards through time at the speed of light I’m yours, you’re mine, two satellites Not alone No, we’re not alone A freeze-frame of your eye in the strobelight Sweat dripping down from your brow, hold tight Don’t let go Don’t you let me go
I listened to a great podcast this week called Unf*ck Your Brain. The host specializes in thought work. And she blew my mind a bit, although there may be more enlightened schools of thought that disagree with what I’m about to break down. But hear me out. Basically, love is just your thoughts that create positive feelings. So loving someone is just for you, really. You can go ahead and love someone as much as you want, as long as you are being treated with respect and it feels good! Love is not a finite resource. We can make as much love as the love thoughts we have the capacity to generate. You do not need to ration it or budget it. You can spend it, assess if where you spent it served you well and decide to keep spending it there or withdraw and spend it somewhere else.
But start with yourself. Because negative thoughts are just that—THOUGHTS! And you have the power to change or re-write them. If you’re not feeling it with someone you’ve loved, examine YOUR thoughts first. Start with yourself. Is the issue deeper, a past hurt or trauma perhaps? Or is it simply that you chose to love someone/spend love thoughts on someone who can’t meet you at your level?
We all grow at different rates and paces, not just physically but intellectually, cognitively and spiritually. You can wake up one day to find you’ve outpaced the person you started out with, be it your parent, your friend, your spouse. Or that they couldn’t keep up with you. And that’s when things get painful. Because you either start holding yourself back for the person you love to catch up, or you constantly feel like you’re not enough to keep up with the person who got there before you. You don’t understand why the other person doesn’t see the world the way you do. And it hurts, because our instinct is to think that one of us is wrong, when often we are both right.
When you start tuning into where you are vibing, when you pay attention to your pace and your steps, the body that houses the spirit and the mind that often gets too much power beyond running the order of operations of that body, THEN things do fall into place. The only two things we have control over is how we prepare for a particular moment and how we react to a particular moment. Once you spend some time with that, little by little, you let go of worry and fear, one act of surrender at a time.
In that regard, I see falling in love as a choice and staying in love a mix of choice and actions, small surrenders and kindnesses done on the daily—by choice.
And I never was smart with love I let the bad ones in and the good ones go, but…
I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before I’m gonna love you like I’m indestructible Your love is ultra magnetic and it’s taking over This is hardcore And I’m indestructible
Monsieur Magique was an hour late. I expect him to always be 30 minutes late—that’s the basic buffer I mentally put in as a safety measure. He’s a European stereotype with those things and also has an extremely intense job, so I understand his dedication to his work to-do list. So I just physically prepare on the off-chance he will be on-time, but mentally prepare for the fact that I have 30 minutes to tweak things like my makeup, my food presentation, or the arrangement of pillows on my bed. I put music on, I pour some wine and a just float through the house. If it’s a restaurant and I’m waiting the 30 minutes, I flirt with the waiter. But by the time he arrives, he expects me to be angry. It’s like he wants to be punished for being a naughty boy, and I think he might be disappointed when I’m completely unfazed.
I was irritated, and he’s right, I should be mindful of that. I think that this is me choosing not to be angry, but also I’ve learned that expectations matter. That if we don’t say something is unacceptable when it is, the person trespassing will continue to trespass and offend and you will keep saying, “It’s fine,” but not really mean it and then 20 years later you will wake up and hate the person for not knowing it’s not OK and not being able to read your mind after 20 years.
But also, do I need to sweat the small stuff? No harm, no foul. He usually let’s me know he’s running late in plenty of time and so we’re good. But on Friday night, 30 minutes became 60 with no notice. And the thing that irked me was I had gone out of my way to make him dinner, because I knew he was coming from work and probably had little but cigarettes for dinner. He has not been great at taking care of himself in the time I’ve known him, though he manages to go swimming or to the gym when he can.
His job is eating up his life. He works seven days a week AND tries to be SuperDad at the same time. From school to the airport or office and back again. And from our very first most magical date he made very clear that work and kids were the priority right now, so I accept that completely. But I CHOOSE to care about him, and seeing him constantly putting himself last (save those tiny smoke breaks), hearing him complain, seeing him look so stressed and tired… well it tears at my heart strings a bit. He’s a giver, but I wonder if he’s giving so much at the expense of himself. And then where do I fit in? What’s my part in all this? Do I need to define it or do I just go with the flow, filling in the gaps as I see them?
So I chose to welcome him into my home, to ignore his guilty look, and to wrap him up in my arms and hold and kiss his face to tell him it was OK. Because I wanted to create a safe, comforting space for him. This home was a battle zone and not a sanctuary for so long. I’ve worked so hard to give it new energy, and I want there to be something sacred in the space and time I choose to spend with the person I choose to care deeply about.
As I was flitting about the kitchen, getting everything reheated, he came up behind me and held me tight. “Smells so good,” he said, “Thank you. It kind of feels like I’m coming home.” My knees buckled a bit.
We ate and talked in depth about our kids and it’s never a problem because it’s both our favourite subjects and a great way to learn about each other. “You bought French wine!” he remarked. Indeed, I’d bought it with intention, thinking about how he told me that the good vintage is 2015. But I love Bordeaux, it’s one of my favourites (along with Rioja and Garnacha), so much so that it was the colour I had my toes painted this week (also with intention). “I often buy French wine,” I smirked.
Dinner was cold and not my A-game, and apparently I was a bit cold and B-game too, because he commented that I didn’t seem myself, that I seemed distant. I think I was just trying to observe what was happening, trying to keep an eye on how I was feeling and reacting to things, but he was convinced I was mad and holding back, not showing my Greekness enough. So I said, “Fine, I will tell you. This work stress is not your forever, but it’s your right now. And it’s OK right now, because it’s cold and icy, so hibernating is something I appreciate and a night at home is a nice thing. But come long, sunny days, I will resent you for being late. I’m very good at filling my own time with fun. Don’t keep me waiting. D’accord?“
We danced to 80s records again until late. But I was cognizant of the fact that he had to be up early to get his kids the next morning. “How much sleep do you need to be functional for your kids tomorrow?”
“Hmmm? Are you getting antsy to get me into bed?”
“No, well a bit, but I’m also respecting your time and your schedule,” I replied. “And don’t feel like you need to stay. If you need to be in your own house tonight, just say the words.” I was antsy, but only because the ghost of Susan FUCKING BOIL was back and I wasn’t sure how to address the fact that my ladytown was off limits.
“Five hours,” he replied, putting on Duran Duran’s “Reflex” and twirling me around the room. “Last song,” he said, and when it was done, he reshelved the record, then calmly walked over to his overnight bag. “I brought my jammies!” he smiled, tossing a pair of PJ pants down to my bedroom. I guess we were having a sleepover. Not gonna lie, I was giddy.
Hands up in the air like we don’t care We’re shooting deep into space And the lasers split the dark Cut right through the dark It’s just us, we ignore the crowd dancing Fall to the floor Beats in my heart Put your hand on my heart
I won’t get into details of what ensued (sorry pervs), but let’s say that some interesting things came up, all of which are promising and can be worked through with communication. He is a giver! And I think has a hard time with letting go, like he’s too wrapped up in his own head. I can work with this.
So I pretended I had my period to not get into the whole “maybe I have a staph infection” conversation. And as a result, try as he might to change the course of the evening, I did not have an orgasm. And I was totally OK with that. It was my choice, not due to a bad lover. You get to choose how you ride your ride. Instead, after we fooled around in other ways, I got another all-night snugglefest. And for the first time, I really fell asleep. I woke up a few times to adjust blankets, pillows, positions, the thermostat… but I learned how to accept his snoring as purring and let him white noise me to sleep in his arms.
When I called it purring in the morning, he softened. “You’re so kind to call it that.” We don’t have to make someone’s physical flaws a liability. We can be gentle with them. And we should be just as gentle (if not more) with our own. What I adore about Monsieur Magique is how he notices kind gestures and really expresses his appreciation for them. No one is perfect, but I get that some things are deal breakers, I have them too, and I watch for them like a hawk. Perhaps I should make a post about them, my makers and breakers, because I’ve put a lot of thought into them, but haven’t validated the breakers properly.
We shared a bagel and talked about our plans for the week. He thanked me countless times, apologizing again for his lateness. We hugged deeply, with meaning. “Text me to keep me updated on your adventures and I’ll try to do the same,” he said over his shoulder while leaving, eliminating the last niggling feeling I had about our inconsistency in texting styles. I had permission to text when I felt like it. I just have to accept that the response will come in its own time.
I went to yoga later and had a hard time setting my intention. I settled on choosing an open heart. My mom and sister constantly worry about how trusting I am, about how I give my love to everyone. But if love is a choice to think love thoughts, what’s the harm in that? I’ve proven that I’m not as fragile as I was lead to believe. “You’re just so sensitive,” my mom would say, mistaking empathy or heightened awareness for sensitivity.
I’ve been hurt before (or chosen to think painful thoughts about the end of something) and I licked my wounds (with the help of many MANY people, mind you) and moved on. Isn’t life just a practice of this? Love with abandon (as long as you’re being mindful throughout the process) and if it comes back to you, great! If/when it ends, accept it and move forward in your own time. Nothing’s here to stay anyway. Shouldn’t we all just savour the love when we can get it?
I’m going all in.
And I never was smart with love I let the bad ones in and the good ones go, but…
I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before I’m gonna love you like I’m indestructible Your love is ultra magnetic and it’s taking over This is hardcore And I’m indestructible
Earlier in the day, I had listened to another Oprah podcast with the author of Produced by Faith, DeVon Franklin, where the Hollywood success felt so strongly about “bathroom moments.” He was referring to the scene in The Pursuit of Happyness where Will Smith is sleeping with his child in a washroom and prays desperately to God for help and the answer comes shortly after. It stayed with me. I don’t like asking God for this kinda help unless I’m really struggling.
After Stavros left, I took out the Answer Feathers. I read the instructions. I looked at the feathers, which were both variations on brown. I wanted to make time to treat them with the respect and mindfulness they deserved. You don’t have time for this now, I kept telling myself.
I was expecting dinner guests so I ran around the house picking things up and tidying. I ordered the takeout and mentally planned to pick up eggs and orange juice for my morning guest, Monsieur Magique. I washed my sheets and began to change my bed. Did I even have pillowcases big enough for my new pillows?
I passed the Answer Feathers again. And then I decided I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to know yet. It was too fun, the not knowing. And yet my insides were getting chewed up. How would I ever choose? Someone was going to get hurt! Was I being true to myself? Didn’t I already know? Why was I adding confusion to the mix?
I went to sort out the upstairs bathroom to make sure there were towels and toilet paper, when I came across a pair of silver feather earrings I’d forgotten about and absent-mindedly put them on. Then I literally had a bathroom moment in the bathroom. Overwhelmed by not knowing which man to choose, I prayed to God for the answer. That whichever man was the one I was supposed to be with would become clear to me. I’m not religious, I don’t believe in organized religion, mostly, but I’m spiritual AF. And I do believe in the life force or source energy. And since I was brought up super Christian Orthodox, when I need it to REALLY work for me, it takes the shape of “God.” I’ve come to accept this, and that my idea of God cannot be defined.
That’s when I noticed that one of my feather earrings was missing (it’s still missing, days later). It had fallen off my ear somehow while I was running around. I tried to avoid the Answer Feathers, but a decision was made in spite of my waffling. I had a sign. I took a deep breath and continued on with my day. By morning, I would know what to do.
A group of former colleagues came over for takeout and wine and giggles. We went around the table giving updates on work and personal lives. It was funny and touching sometimes. We had been through a lot together, the seven of us, and I was glad to spend time with them. But when it got to my turn, I told them they had to leave at 10:30, because Monsieur Magique was coming for a sleepover. That’s when they decided to linger. “I’ll take that tea you were offering!” Gah!
I realized he’d be there soon, so went down to quickly brush my teeth and touch up my face. I’d kept my makeup natural and was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but as I had made a point to get my hair cut and nails done, I was feeling pretty damn good. Underneath it all, I had a secret: I was wearing a mauve bralette and tanga set that I’d carefully chosen. My ex-husband used to freak out if I dared to put on lingerie, saying that my expectations for sex were so obvious, as though I were wearing a sandwich board that screamed, “Have sex with me!” that it turned him off. And yet if I hid the fact that I wanted to have sex, we just mostly wouldn’t, sooooo… Anyway, bygones…
When I came out of the bathroom, I realized Monsieur Magique was here. I came up to find my handsome Frenchman sitting at the dining room table, surrounded by a gaggle of giggling women, who were all clearly adoring his accent and his dapper way. “Hi sweetie,” he said, noticing me, “You look great!” We kissed awkwardly because I wanted to plant one on his lips and he was trying to give me a French kiss — not with tongue, but double cheek. “Did you get a haircut? I’ve never seen you with straight hair! I got a haircut too!” OMG, how do you not fall for this enthusiastic man, who notices details?
My guests finally left, albeit apprehensively. I could tell they wanted some more Magique in their lives too. Who could blame them? I locked the door, turned around and stared into the face of the sun. Remember when I said I’d written in my journal after our first date, “The sunshine in his heart greets the sunshine in mine?” There it was! His stress, palpable on the phone earlier in the week, seemed to have dissipated for the moment. I cupped his face in my hands and kissed him. “What?” he asked, looking at me with playful curiosity. “You’re just so…” how to describe it to him? He beams!
We played the Lionel Ritchie record I picked up after our last dance-a-thon here, went out to the porch so he could have a smoke, and then he suggested we play a game of some sort. We played one of my kids’ games, smiling and laughing at my competitiveness. Then he taught me a French card game, which was like Euchre but more complicated, because French. Have you seen that video of the cab driver who tries to explain counting to 100 in French? Hilarious. He mentioned a big tournament with all his friends in two weeks and suggested that maybe I should come. The thought of that intimidates the hell out of me right now, so I pretended not to hear clearly. Card came I don’t know well and a room full of people I don’t know speaking a language I can’t speak fluently? Gah!
My brain was saying, “Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, SEX!” all night, and I was really hoping he wouldn’t pick up on the vibe. Around 1 a.m. it became clear that his brain was saying the same thing. “OK, shall we go down to your dungeon?” he asked, grabbing my shoulders. He pounced on my bed and laid back casually. “So…” he smirked, “How many sleepovers have you had here?”
“You mean NOT with my daughter? Zero. You’re the first.”
“Really? Well, I’m honoured.”
We made out for a bit and I can’t totally recall how the front of his jeans opened up, but whoa Nelly! My room was gently lit and we were sober. “You’re not wearing underwear!?!” I exclaimed. “No, I haven’t worn underwear since I was… 17? Only when I wear a suit.” I was so freakin’ excited that as I tried to pull off his jeans while kneeling at the foot of the bed, I completely fell off. Like a sideways somersault. Boom. We laughed so hard. I was mortified, but he’s so good humoured that the joke went on all night and the next day and I’m still giggling, imagining my Kimmy Schmidt moment.
“It’s not fair that I’m unclothed and you’ve got so much on,” he said. So I got down to my pretty skivvies, and he oohed with appreciation. “Nice,” he said, pulling me close. I raised an eyebrow. “What? Don’t think I didn’t notice. You had your hair done, your nails done. Thank you. It’s appreciated.” Who. Is. This. Man?!
After very good sex, he held me again. We cuddled ALL NIGHT. Again, I didn’t really sleep at first, but I didn’t fret this time. I just smiled at the beauty of it. His snores were quieter and towards the wee hours of the morning, he pulled my face into his chest and purred me to sleep like a cat. I woke up mouth-breathing and drooling all over him, but he didn’t wake up, so I nestled in and went back to sleep.
When it seemed reasonable to try and start the day, he mentioned he was famished. His bedroom has giant south-facing bay windows under a turret, so he wakes to natural light. My basement bedroom is like a Las Vegas casino: there’s no way to know the time. When he commented on the utter dark of my room, I told him it was great for sleeping-in and that he needed it. I made him breakfast while we talked about our breakups in a bit more detail. What worked, what didn’t? We ate and chatted about our kids again. He keeps calling me SuperMom, and I know this is an important quality for him, so I am flattered.
He had asked for chill time earlier in the week, so I suggested we watch A Star is Born in my bed. I told him I was never a TV in the bedroom person, but that my bedroom used to be the family room and the TV stayed. That the only way I learned to fall asleep after nearly two decades of someone sleeping beside me was by watching Downton Abbey each night until I passed out. He looked into my eyes deeply, sympathetically. Then we headed down for… snuggles. (OK hot sex first, then snuggles.) “You’re so easy to be with,” I murmured, “You just know yourself so well.”
“Well I should after all these years,” he quipped. “You’d be surprised at how rare it is,” I responded. He stroked my hair while we watched the movie, which I found hard to watch, so the hair stroking was so comforting. Being a part of a two-artist couple for so long, where one partner’s success overshadowed the other partner’s… where the male partner put down the female partner’s success, because he felt that authenticity mattered most… Where he self-medicated to deal with childhood trauma and the ego… it was tough. But dang that “Shallow” song is good and so are both the actors. It’s just hard for me not to be completely pissed off at Jackson Maine. What I loved about the movie was all the talk about Ally’s nose. It was so key to the story that it was validating for me, a big-nosed girl, to see Bradley Cooper’s character tell her she’s beautiful and that he loves her nose.
Anyway, suffice it to say that watching a romantic movie with a French hottie, who wants nothing but to snuggle you, to be close and touching the entire time, is my idea of total bliss. The movie ended around the time he had to leave for work stuff, so I offered him a quick shower and said that I would resist the urge to climb in with him because I knew he was pressed for time. He came down in a towel, which was hard to resist, and I made it clear that I didn’t want him to leave, but that I understood. He apologized for having to work, thanked me for breakfast and a lovely evening, booked our next date as he always does, and left.
We texted that night as “our song” was performed live and perfectly. To quote the movie’s anthem…
Last summer, my friend gave me the gift of two feathers for my birthday. These indigenous “answer feathers” are like nature’s magic eight ball. You’re to look at them, feel their energy, think on two things you are choosing between and then choose the feather that speaks to you. Your answer will be clear within a day.
I had a kid-free Saturday, and I’ve gotten so good at curating them to be soul-filling. I wish I could convince my friends who are partnered with kids to do this for themselves more. It’s funny how we think we don’t have the time, because we are always attending to the needs of others, and yet when forced to share the kids by law, BOOM, there’s the time. I began the morning by going to my favourite cafe and took two oat milk lattes and some croissants to my hairdresser’s and we had our usual best time ever. “I was thinking of you and thinking sleek hair,” she said. I told her to go for it, because the last time she did my hair (wild and fuckable), I met Monsieur Magique at the party that changed my destiny.
I bought a reissue of Joni Mitchell’s Blue on vinyl, talked to my mom on the phone while walking to get some sundries, felt the cold winter sunshine on my face. Then I went to visit Gogo of the Witches, to get a pair of gloves I’d left there at her last party. She was in post-coital bliss, having reconnected with an old friend who had turned into a lover the night before, and we had such an awesome connection and discussion as always. I appreciate my big energy, open-hearted romantic friends so much. I ran into her again later and told her she feels like my Saturday elf — with her shockingly red hair and her Rainbow Brite snow suit — that seeing her on one of my free Saturdays almost always guarantees I’m going to have a good weekend. Do you have anyone in your life like that?
Then I went to yoga, where I set my intention to “centre,” because there were rumours of a racist rally in my neighbourhood and I felt that “centre” was the strongest word to dedicate to my community to prevent hate from showing up, while also serving me where I needed to be that busy Saturday (where I had admittedly over-scheduled myself). The rally never happened, so I’m gonna go with “my yoga intention worked,” because I honestly felt some very present vibrations during savasana. Yoga was HARD, a total sweat fest of flow-time, and I needed it to beat my brain into blissful submission, because I had two dates that day. Eek! WTF am I doing?
Monsieur Magique almost always books our next date as we are saying goodbye. When I had flagged that we kept getting drunk and could we have a day date so I could see how I feel about him when sober, he’d enthusiastically said yes to a “playdate” for Sunday of this weekend. But later that night, he’d texted to say he’d had such a fun time with me and might he come over after my dinner guests leave the night before so he could cuddle me in my cold basement bedroom and then start the day together Sunday. Swoon. I knew he’d be working working working, as is his non-dad mode lately due to pressures on his business. So I wasn’t surprised when he texted Saturday morning to explain that unfortunately he’d have to leave at 1pm the next day. He was sincerely apologetic, citing that he knew I’d put some thought into what we might do (I had planned to take him to play a sort of bocce-meets-mini-golf). I told him not to worry, that they were calling for rain and 100 km/hr winds, so I was changing the plan to staying in bed and watching Oscar movies with him. I went to buy new pillows, because MM’s bed is like a goddamn hotel bed, and I wanted that same fluffy feeling. I wanted my first ever man sleeping in my new basement bedroom (!!!) to feel comfortable and cared for.
I listened to an Oprah “Super Soul Conversations” episode on Spiritual Partnerships, while carrying all my stuff to the café where I was supposed to meet Stavros. By the time he arrived, I was good and centred, ready for what might come, knowing full well what I want from a partner. He showed up, dark, playfully brooding as always, a slight smile on his face to see me. We had an intense, intimate conversation, where I was surprised by his honesty and vulnerability. He admitted to being negative and anxious his whole life, a symptom of the way we’d been brought up, which I understood. He explained the breakdown of his marriage to his high school sweetheart, and how much work he’s done on himself to fight his negative thought patterns. He’s medicated for depression, which I respect a lot as my ex never got the medical care he needed for his. Stavros said that he feels a clarity of mind and focus that he never had before, but my red flags were going off big time. I am definitely drawn to him, but can’t help but feel like our timing is off. Like he’s a year behind where I’m at in my journey, and that he is a bit of work still (though he insists he’s not). His natural way is not “sunny.” Is this just another Theo in a better package? Employed steadily, working on himself, aware of his bullshit AND Greek? Honestly, a man that says “therapy” and can speak the language of psychology is pretty hot to me right now.
I told him that I know I want to be someone’s girlfriend eventually, I just don’t know if I can make that decision right now. He responded that he didn’t believe in labels, that the only thing he wants from me is my time. I’ve made it clear that I don’t want to be someone’s sunshine, that I want the sunshine in a man’s heart to greet the sunshine in mine. I can’t be responsible for someone else’s happiness. I tried to help a depressed partner once and it backfired.
Still, Stavros is so damn easy to talk to. Beyond our mother tongue, we share a language of culture, of music and movies. We have a similarly dry sense of humour. I decided I needed to kiss him to see if this was just a friendship. So when he offered to drive me home, I said yes. He put my bags in his car, opened my door for me, and off we went. I told him my funniest stories of working in the film industry (he’s film school grad and had spent some time working at film festivals, on top of his acting experience). I told the story of working on a major Hollywood film and being given the job of watching three hours of porn in the director’s office alone to select a super sexy scene that would ultimately appear in the film. They chose me for the task, because the production manager thought giving the job to my male colleague meant he’d masturbate, so I was the supposedly safer bet. Stavros asked what I did. “Of course I had a wank or three on the director’s couch! It’s not gender-specific! Three HOURS of porn-watching!”
“There’s another way you’re not like any other Greek girl,” he said through impressed laughs. To which I retorted, “I’m not like any girl you’ll ever meet.” A bit cocky of me, I’ll admit.
He managed to get a parking space on my snowy street. “Yay,” I bluffed, “Now you can help me bring my bags to the door!” We went up to my place, not edging past the doorway vestibule (yay for winter boots creating boundaries). “Wow,” he exclaimed looking around at the kid art and the photos and the books, “Your place is so full!” I reminded him that I didn’t start with a blank canvas like he did, that all I had to do was fill in the spaces Theo left when he took his comic books and concert posters. “I hate comic books,” he said, trying to be funny. A red flag. I probed him on why and he back-tracked a bit. We chatted until it got awkward. “Are you gonna kiss me or what?” I asked. “First I’m going to hug you,” he said. And the hug was intimate and wonderful. And then we kissed, a bit formally at first, but then it got hot pretty fast. He held my face with both hands and kissed me passionately. DAMN! I was really hoping for a bad kiss so I could call this already.
“I’m going to let you lead,” he said, putting all his trust in me, making me feel guilt at the duplicitousness of dating two men without telling any of them. It’s my control habit energy showing up — the need to feel like I’m the one who gets to make this decision. Sigh. It feels very unlike me to have secrets at all, though I realize that having two men keeps me distant and mysterious enough that I’m not overly available to either one, creating a desire that wouldn’t exist if I was my usual “dog greeting his owner when he gets home from work” excited and overly loving self.
To be fair, the common thing I hear when talking to others is, “Everyone should assume that everyone is dating everyone, unless you’ve had a conversation otherwise.” I do like this, because then it takes the pressure off. You don’t need to make anything a THING until some time has passed and it organically makes sense to. And yet, when I was out with my coach and biz partner, Rock n’ Roll Cowgirl, the other day, she asked if Monsieur Magique knew about Stavros. When I said no, citing the modern day rule above, she said, “Yeah, but somehow I don’t think he would like it if he knew.” I agree with her. He’s romantic and a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to matters of the heart. If I hadn’t been so surprised by all the similarities between Stavros and myself that I swiped right and messaged, I wouldn’t be in this situation. And I know fully well that beyond the curiosity of it, I did it to protect myself and pace myself from going all in with Monsieur Magique too quickly. So here I am.
“Should I text you less?” He looked a bit hurt when I said yes, it was a bit much, that I wasn’t getting anything done during the day, not paying attention in meetings, due to our constant text banter. “I mean, I could also just not be so responsive,” I said. He touched my collar bone and then we kissed again with such feeling that I was grateful that lazy me hadn’t made her bed that morning. “OK, you have to leave, I have a dinner party to prepare for,” I told him. We made a plan to see a movie on Thursday. I closed the door and said, “Fuuuuuuuck. What now?”
It started out as a lark. I’d popped back into OK Cupid in December when my therapist suggested I could make time to swipe right a few times before the holidays if I really wanted. She wanted me to remember that anything could happen, that I didn’t have to put arbitrary timelines on starting to seek something new, that I should embrace the moment.
So I did some swiping and then promptly forgot about the app. In my mind, I’d deleted it. But then every now and again, an email notification would appear in my Gmail. And I’d screen grab them (because they are hilariously bad more times than not) and share them on my Instagram stories. Then one day, I got one that piqued my curiosity completely.
“Well, from one media professional to another, hello.”
The message was from Stavros, a name I instantly recognized to belong to a fellow Greek like me. What are the chances? We work in the same industry and we have the same ethnicity… come on!
“Well, from one Greek to another, yassou!” I replied.
Our text exchanges were initially not great, but I gleaned that he’s a TV producer and sometimes actor, and the father of two. I didn’t feel like he asked me enough questions about myself. Or rather, he didn’t know how to volley conversation over text to keep it going. I’d wake up to a “Psst” — what do you want me to do with that? I’m not a cat! Do some inquiring, otherwise all you want is my attention lavished on you and you have to earn that!
I also detest the apps. They’re a necessary evil. I don’t like how someone can see when you’re on there or when the last time you checked in was. I don’t even know why I asked him to take it to text. But I gave him my number (and one other guy, but that’s another story), told him that I had a weekend to myself so he wouldn’t hear from me until Sunday, and then deleted my profile. I have Frenchie, I don’t need further complications.
I messaged Stavros that Sunday. I know why. Part curiosity, part “OH MY GOD I HAVE FEELINGS FOR FRENCHIE!” You see, I don’t trust myself yet. I am not convinced I know my own heart. I’m too romantic, too idealistic, and too eager to have an eligible person take me off this dating ride. Plus, I have some red flags about Frenchie/Monsieur Magique and I need some objectivity around him, because he’s so damn dynamic and confident. Can I build a life with a smoking, drinking, Frenchman who can go days without checking in on me? I long for banter over text, which is maybe ridiculous, but is something that makes me happy. I have super eclectic musical tastes — can I build a life with someone who likely won’t go to indie rock concerts with me? I know a lot of this is form identity, but while we are in human bodies, we should ideally be with someone who not only makes us feel good, but who also wants to do the kinds of things with you that you love doing, no? Anyway, this needs validation in terms of a judgment on Frenchie. He does like to do a lot of things I like to do. And maybe edgy indie rock types are my past and, as such, should not be my present or future.
Stavros was glad to hear from me and we texted back and forth, getting a sense of each other without ever having met. Online dating lacks that magic “lock eyes across the room” spark that is so damn great. On Wednesday I was supposed to go out with Guy #3 (another story), but he cancelled last minute and I found myself free. I thought about going to the movies alone — something I have yet to do. Monsieur Magique was out of town on business. But then I found myself texting Stavros. “Long shot, but I’m unexpectedly free tonight. Want to meet up for a drink or a movie?”
“Long shot might pay off. What time were you thinking?”
And that’s how I met Stavros. He was waiting for me in the cafe I had chosen for its cute decor and cosy lighting, when I arrived exactly on-time (which is considered late by people who are never late, AKA not me). He had made reservations, something he reiterated at the end of the date, to say they’d denied him but when he explained his situation, they made it work. I appreciate this tenacity; there’s something to it.
He stood up, but having never met before, I didn’t go in for a hug or a cheek kiss. To be totally honest, I didn’t think I was going to like him at all, something he also said to me later that night over text. There’s this inherent bias that intellectual/artsy Greeks have about the average Greek. And we both assumed that the other would be more traditional. So I was surprised when HOURS went by, the two of us talking easily and making each other laugh through sarcasm. Stavros described himself as a bit of a Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of my favourite shows).
There is, of course, the obvious — coming from a very similar experience of growing up Greek in North America means we share a language beyond our mother tongue. That we both inherently understand some of the childhood experience of the other, the dynamic in our families and what it’s like to grow up ethnic but not racialized and yet still feeling like you didn’t fit in. There’s the fact that we both dealt with it similarly, by exploring the arts and media and using that as an escape. But that’s where it stops. He married his high school sweetheart, and by the sounds of it, he has not really been with anyone since.
Turns out I liked him. A lot. There was something so easy about it.
Pros: He’s funny. We have a similar sense of humour. He dresses well (he had on great shoes) and I enjoyed making him laugh. Those laughs were hard-won. We like the same kinds of music and movies so there’s loads to talk about and share there. He is really into me and not afraid to share that. We have similar tastes in the arts we consume. He is a communicator. We have a few friends in common. That’s all I know so far.
Red flags: He’s a bit of a downer in that George Constanza way. Self-deprecating. Eeyore-esque? He hasn’t put himself out there for the past 2.5 years, not really. He prefers to stay home alone. He doesn’t exercise. (Frenchie swims and plays tennis and does winter sports.) He’s Greek so he probably has a hairy arse… (So does Frenchie — I mean I could get used to it, but my preference is a smooth bum… WHAT? Men can police women’s body hair, I think it’s fine to say I have preferences!) He doesn’t seem to have a life when his kids aren’t with him or he’s not at work. Unlike me, he hasn’t learned to fill his time with interests that take him out of the home. I don’t think he sleeps much and then he fuels himself on coffee. My spidey sense wonders if he has ADHD like me.
But the worst offence is that he messages me ALL. THE. TIME. He’s like me, 2.5 years ago, when I was a mere zygote in the dating world. I’m as neurotic and needy as the next girl, but funnily enough, all this experience with men who don’t text has made me want to text WAY less. In fact, in tuning into my texting habits, I realize that it’s a crutch. I reach for it when I’m uncomfortable or needing validation. Stavros is all about the validation. He gives it and he needs it. CONSTANTLY. When I try to put some boundaries on it, he respects them, but when I message him the next day, he very honestly says that he’s so glad that I did. I just don’t want to be on my phone that much. And if I don’t write him back, there’s always an attempt to re-engage me. It suggests an insecurity I don’t need in my life where it’s at right now.
So while Stavros is fun and chatty and distracting, and the commonalities between our jobs, cultures and interests are lovely, I’m not yet sure if our values are aligned. Monsieur Magique to me is an aspirational potential boyfriend. He has qualities I aspire to inherit. Where as my gut feeling with Stavros so far is that he’s work. And I really don’t want to be someone’s CONSTANT cheerleader, especially if they are prone to depressive tendencies, because it backfires and works against you after a while. I lived that once already.
Anyway, I’ve got a busy weekend coming up, but I decided to squeeze Stavros in for a quick coffee date to chat some more and see if my assumptions/instincts hold up. Then we’ll see about moving onto activities dates. Right now I’m most excited about my sleepover and then day date with Monsieur Magique (taking him to play some sort of bocce golf!). Exciting times, friends. Exciting times!
I don’t know you But I want you All the more for that
I open the door to Monsieur Magique’s beautiful home and try to play it cool. He bought it before his kids were born, before his marriage even, when he was on his own in the world. He’s lovingly renovated it himself. It lacks clutter and pretension, it’s imperfect and yet simply beautiful… kind of like him.
He’s making us a salad at the breakfast bar and pours me some bubbly with a glint of the magic that first drew me to him. There’s a confident, shit-disturbing impishness to him. I am butterflies and yet completely calm. I recognize this feeling, but I don’t want to name it yet, because I need to examine if it’s true. Everyone is their best at the start of a relationship, so it’s important to watch for the rough spots and see if they will become deal-breakers as days, years, decades pass.
We talk easily and laugh plenty. He’s fun, SO FUN! We tease each other playfully, and it’s not mean-spirited but exactly the kind of flirting I adore. Physically, he’s not totally my usual type, a bit shorter and stockier than I normally go for, but I’m so attracted to him. He’s so comfortable, barefoot in his kitchen, shirt sleeves rolled up, the way he is making a vinaigrette or tossing pistachios on the salad. He gives me a tour of his house. His kids’ rooms are lovingly appointed. Nothing is ostentatious. It’s bigger and nicer than my house, but not in a way that makes me uncomfortable.
Words fall through me And always fool me And I can’t react
I keep looking at him, trying to understand what all these feelings are. Could I fall for this person? Have I already? I feel like he’s all heart, and I’m all heart, and that the sunshine in his heart acknowledges the sunshine in mine. But what happens on days we are both cloudy? Is there a way to know? The red flags I see are mostly around the smoking, and yet I enjoy sitting on a porch or deck with him while he politely has a cigarette, careful to blow smoke away from me. His post-cigarette smell is oddly SEXY AF. He’s so careful to wash his hands and chew gum or take a mint after. It says a lot about who he is, his occasional self-deprecating comments about it, but also how he’s unapologetic about his stereotypically French vice, out in plain view. I think there may be challenges with stress relief, he’s incredibly hard on himself in general, he’s a “weight of the world on his shoulders” type. So when he’s in fun mode, he is down to blow off some steam.
Leading me to the other red flag: His European attitude towards drinking. We seem to get stinking drunk every time we hang out. My old drinking habits find their way to me; I will drink whatever you put in front of me, and fast. The “best rosé in all of France” goes down like water. He thinks he’s being a good host with the subtle top-ups, and I don’t ever get a sense of how much we are imbibing, but there are two bottles turned upside down in the champagne cooler. Is he this much fun when I’m not so drunk? Why do we need to get so drunk when we are clearly so compatible? I feel too old to continue doing this to myself and make a note to call him on it.
And games that never amount To more than they’re meant Will play themselves out
After a delicious dinner of roasted halibut and ratatouille (elegant in its simplicity, homey, nourishing, comforting… like him), we retire to the couch to watch concerts. It’s a YouTube sharing bonanza. He loves going down rabbit holes and we use concerts and other things we enjoy on YouTube to tell the story of ourselves. It’s different, for sure, but there’s just so much sharing. In contrast, Mr. SN would tell me about certain shows but we never watched one together in 10 months.
Monsieur Magique’s tastes are on the lighter side, far cheesier than most men would admit to loving, but he’s resolutely French and makes no apologies for his Eurovision ways. He LOVES the Grammys, and Daft Punk, and fun collaborations. We watch old French singers and movie clips. I tell him I have a love of Celine Dion that I will never apologize for and he casually says we should go to Vegas before her show of 15 years ends in June. I die a little? No, I come alive a little bit more. Everything is suddenly more vibrant. This is a man who would whisk me away to places to see a great show. He’s mentally planning weekends away already, which is something I have tried to do in the past with others like Ali and Mr. SN, only to get pushback. Is this really happening? Am I allowed to indulge in this daydreaming about future trips? What does it say about him that he’s so self-assured, that he completely seems to lack any fear about me? Pace yourself, Maria.
Take this sinking boat and point it home We’ve still got time Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice You’ll make it now
I make him watch La Divina doing Casta Diva. Then I let him see me in a celebrity’s kitchen watching my favourite band do a private concert. “You told me I could Google you easily, but I haven’t yet,” he says. The alcohol makes me slow to react. I don’t pursue this off-the-cuff comment, but in hindsight I should. I don’t even think he knows my last name, which is different on social media than it is in the public sphere.
We dance until two or three in the morning again, trying once again to outdo each other with song selections. He says he let me think I won when I played “Groove is in the Heart” as a reaction to him playing “Funkytown,” but that “Funkytown” will always be superior. And that really says it all for me. This is not someone who is cool in that downtown, “city guy in the know,” “go where the hip bands go” way. He’s an unabashed pop music lover, something that was always insulted in my marriage. We kiss and dance and hold each other close and he spins me around and then we kiss some more. He doesn’t have cool dance moves, but he’s so damn happy when he’s dancing! You can’t help but be carried away by the spirit of him.
After a big bout of giggles, he holds me still and looks into my eyes. “I think we should go to bed.”
Falling slowly, eyes that know me And I can’t go back
We weren’t supposed to sleep together. I haven’t had a first-time sleepover with a man since 1998. I tell him this is a big deal and he should know that it’s A BIG DEAL! He has given me many options to back out and somehow I just never call that Uber. I have bought a travel toothbrush and face wipes and a clean pair of undies. I’m a big girl now. I’m ready for this. I think?
Except the fucking BOIL. Susan BOIL! It’s a fraction of what it was, just a tiny pin head really, but it’s still present. I have come up with a game plan and tell him I’ve had a small procedure, then end up talking WAY too much, making up shit that no one needs to hear. “I’m cysty and sometimes things have to come out when they are too painful,” I tell him. WHAT?! (Well, I AM cysty, my body loves to make cysts to deal with stress, but did he need to know this on date #4?) He laughs at my use of the made-up word “cysty” and tells me no problem.
I tell him everything else is available but my underpants are off limits, and he’s respectful. But I’m drunk and the second his mouth is on my naked body and he’s begging to see and taste more of me, I buckle. Because I want him too. And my normally solid willpower is nowhere to be found. Booze and sex are my vices and both are partying with me tonight.
It’s dark and I’m slutty. I guide his hand to the bandaid on Susan BOIL, “Avoid this part.” The rest is a loud, drunken fumble. It’s messy, but fun. He spoons me without hesitation afterwards. He apologizes for the fact that he will snore and we fall asleep holding each other.
Moods that take me and erase me And I’m painted black
I wake up every time his cat meows but manage to experience the snoring as a sort of white noise, and fall in and out of dreamy sleep. Until 5 am, when I experience an intense hot flash. Hormones and alcohol and 40-something me do not mix. I’m AWAKE. And THINKING.
Is this real? Is this happening? Why doesn’t he have curtains? Will the cat shut the fuck up? Does it endear me to him that his cat is all up in my grill, or does she do this to every woman he brings home? Is any of this sustainable? Will I get used to this snoring? Why didn’t I say no to the digestive cognac? Why didn’t we just fool around without full fucking? Why am I so soft on my healthy boundaries around drinking and shagging? And so on, and so on.
I try to use my meditation skills to sort myself out, but my brain is MUSH and I can’t recall a single mantra from Thich Naht Hanh. I just lie there, with my eyes closed, in his dreamy bed, trying to get out from underneath his snuggle grip without waking him.
Later, he comments that I’m a furnace. I tell him I’m perimenopausal and to get used to it.
You have suffered enough And warred with yourself It’s time that you won
Then WHOOSH! I decide to just accept that I’m not going to sleep. I decide to delight in the warm glow of the sunrise in his picture window, the hotel quality fluffiness of the duvet and the pillows, the arms wrapped around me, attached to the caring, snoring Frenchman next to me. Haven’t I earned this comfort, this security that I don’t seem to be able to trust? Don’t I get to have this after the past 5-10 years of struggle and heartache and pain? I think I do.
He wakes up around eight and says, “I think we should eat and then come back to bed.” We are both FAMISHED. I love how sensible and “here’s what the right thing to do next” he is. I borrow a t-shirt and I can barely speak from sleeplessness and hangover. He expertly whips up some eggs and reheats some ratatouille. He has NO COFFEE. Well he has coffee, he just has no way to MAKE IT and I am too out of it to try to rig some camping style contraption to have it. I make a mental note to bring a French press next time I visit.
We talk about our kids, their personalities, their weak spots. The conversation is so natural, even without coffee. He looks at me intently as I describe reading about my son’s perspective on his sister’s illness in his high school application essay. His eyes are so blue. Gah! WHAT IS HAPPENING? I break his gaze but then meet it again. It’s like he SEES me.
Take this sinking boat and point it home We’ve still got time Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice You’ve made it now
We go back to bed, and joke around about our rumble in the sheets the night before (“Who needs Callas when there’s you?” Hahaha!), then we fool around a bit, with exploring hands only. I tell him no more drinking so much, that I want to get to know what we are like together sober and he agrees. Then he spoons me again and we take a four-hour nap. And I sleep this time, relaxing into the unknown, embracing this imperfect human who is so open and giving. Grateful to have him lead me a tiny step towards who I can be in a relationship, while figuring out how to stay in the present when with him.
I decide I should leave. We both have to work. He offers me a shower, which I take gratefully. His bathroom is full of sample sized shampoos and soaps from all his business trips and I love that he’s a sample hoarder like me. The shower does me good, I feel half alive after. I get dressed, but half of me doesn’t want to leave. The alive half.
He sits on the stairs and makes sure to put our next date in his mental calendar. Our kid-free weekends typically line up, and unlike Mr. SN, he seems comfortable booking me so far in advance. He seems to get that I’m a planner, and if he wants to be in those plans he has to be vocal about it. He texts later to say I can drive the next date, but might he come over the night before, after my dinner guests go home, to keep me warm in my cold basement bedroom?
It’s a beautiful dance this. Not a cool one, not a smooth one, just so damn flawesomely pretty in how it’s coming together.
Falling slowly sing your melody I’ll sing it loud
“Falling Slowly” written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová, from the film, Once
A few days after my last visit with Mr. Saturday Night, I felt a sharp pain on my right butt cheek. A closer look revealed that an ingrown hair was screaming at me, angry and red. I washed it, put some cream on it and went to bed. The next day, it had grown bigger, but I went about my day anyway. Having just injured my foot in a bout of mindlessness a few days earlier, I figured ignoring would be better for my mental health. I was having a WEEK!
That evening, I went to a book launch with my friend Champers, and I was in SO much pain. The bump had grown SIGNIFICANTLY, bigger than a marble in size. It hurt to sit or walk. So during the launch I stupidly went to Dr. Google to read up on boils (a malaise I thought died with my favourite nun on Call the Midwife) and promptly had a panic attack. Was I going to get sepsis? Necrotizing fasciitis? Thankfully, Champers acted like my therapy dog and got me home. I got Dr. X on it the next morning, went to the doctor’s office for visual confirmation that I wasn’t dying and then spent a weekend on the couch, getting up only to do warm compresses on my new third ass.
Everything with me is metaphysical. I know that this is an unpopular theory, because it can have a victim-blaming feel to it, but allow me dig in here a bit. I had seen Mr. SN on Saturday night, and I was feeling a bit guilty about it, because part of me was sending warnings about how going was akin to not honouring myself. I knew I was going there to have hot, dirty sex. I knew the chances of finding toilet paper were 50/50. I also knew I’d just met someone who flipped everything on its head and I wasn’t being totally honest with either of these men, nor myself for that matter. I felt entitled to have both men in my life until someone asked me to settle down or be exclusive, because I felt it protected me from getting too excited about either option. I’m a modern woman, dammit! I can date all the men!
Except in my heart, I am not that person and have never been. I am not one-night-stand girl. I am not casual lover girl. My overthinking brain prevents me from actually detaching my emotions from pretty much any activity I do. I even get the feels while brushing my teeth. It’s who I am. This is my curse – I HAVE ZERO CHILL. I’m working on it, I swear. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise, coaching, journaling. I get glimpses of a quiet mind, but it doesn’t last. It’s going to take a LOT of practice. I’m addicted to chatter and conversation. I’m addicted to text messaging with friends. I know this.
I am hoping that through new chapter with Monsieur Magique I can build the practice of exploring that. You see with MM, there’s a cool confidence, a trust that if this is meant to be, it’s going to happen. I mean this sincerely. He almost fell from the sky into my lap when I first met him. When he’s with me he is crystal clear that I am the person he is curious about and wants to be with. We are ridiculously compatible. I am trying to avoid him becoming a story, so I don’t like even writing about him. With him, I just want to BE.
MM compartmentalizes his life. It’s something I’m having to get used to. He has work mode and dad mode and fun mode. Work mode means he also travels a ton when he doesn’t have his kids. And fun mode has friends in there too, so if I want to pursue this, I have to accept that he’s a man with healthy boundaries and I might get an eighth of his time for starters. He doesn’t check work emails when with me and so I imagine that he doesn’t think about me when at work. This is healthy. I need this in my life. As a lifestyle writer for most of my career, everything always bled into the other. Life was content and so work became life. I need to work towards more separation of work and life. I need to learn the value of separating the public and the private. Or not. As my bestie suggested last night, “Maybe you just need workarounds.”
I am not new to men who don’t text or call at the cadence I would like. Mr. SN was also very busy. We would only see each other once or twice a month. I think at most we made it to three times in a month. The difference is, Mr. SN didn’t want to see me more. He wasn’t puzzling over how we could make time for each other. I could not see a path to a time where he might ask me to spend the night, or go away for a weekend together. There was no opportunity for a future there, because he was so guarded, like Patrick Swayze/Johnny telling Jennifer Grey/Baby, “This is your space, this is my space.” And yet I kept trying to see one. I kept wondering, “Well is he just not going deeper because he’s waiting for a signal from me?”
The Sunday after the last Saturday with Mr. SN, I dropped a very heavy wooden barstool on my foot in a moment of mindlessness. Have you ever mentally poured the coffee while you’re still reaching for the mug? That’s the headspace I was in. I almost puked from the pain but shook it off, only to find that after hours of ignoring the foot, I couldn’t walk on it. Dr. X cured me to the point that I was just left with a bruise. But then three days later, the boil. My foot and my butt, the two points of groundedness and also two points from which one can move forward. Having a hurt foot can certainly keep you stuck in a place, and even if it’s uncomfortable, you know it, you’re bringing it upon yourself. The plateau is fine, you tell yourself, because you don’t know what’s ahead and going it alone is scary. I knew, deep down, that I had to end it. I’ve known this for MONTHS. But me being me, I crowdsourced how best to tell him. Did I have to do it in person? Would a text suffice?
The butt, the boil, was my body trying to purge itself of this toxic stuckness. Couldn’t sit, couldn’t walk. Stuck and uncomfortable. Something had to give. So Dr. X pushed me. “You need to tell Mr. SN that it’s over.” Sigh. There’s nothing that makes you stop thinking about the great sex you have with your bohemian lover like a flaming injury in your lady parts region (not to mention doing first aid in the work bathroom to prevent a staph infection from spreading!). She was right. It was time. I had to put on my big girl panties and do a hard thing. The sex and the fun are not worth the emotional toll of me trying to be someone I’m not. I prefer to leave most parties on a high note, just when they are at the precipice of good and bizzaro-world.
I texted him to see if I could call him. We have spoken on the phone once in 10 months and that’s telling. I called and his voice and charm were immediate, so I blurted it all out before I could chicken out. “Hey, so I, uh, met someone and it was quite unexpected. And, uh it’s been really casual with us and we’ve put a fence around what this could be, and I didn’t think I was ready for more but I am as it turns out, and I want to go explore this new relationship and can only date one person at a time.”
Mr. SN sounded surprised. I don’t blame him. Our last text exchange had been 10 days prior, when I’d asked him if maybe he’d given me and STI (JUST A BOIL, THANKS) and then said, “Just to be clear, you are the only person I am sleeping with.” To which he responded, “Just to be clear, you are the only person I am sleeping with.” And that hasn’t changed… yet. But what’s changed is that I’m listening to my heart, and it’s whispering what it has been afraid to say out loud. “I want to be someone’s girlfriend!”
His only questions were, “What does this mean for you and me?” (Or something like that. Answer: “It means I don’t think we can continue as we have been.”) And, “Can I ask how you met them? Was it online?” No, I told him, at a party before Christmas. Quite unexpected, I repeated. I told him our friendship over the past few months has meant the world and that my time with him was one of the best experiences of my life. “I’m going to miss you,” I said sadly. “I’m going to miss you too.” And that was the only emotional sentence he uttered over the whole call. “Keep me posted on how it goes and let me know over text if you want to hang out again sometime.”
It was lovely, Mr. Saturday Night. But I have to hop in a cab before they start playing “Rhythm is a Dancer” and doing bumps off the TV set. I have to go home to roost in my own heart for a while, before I go giving it to someone else.
Ok, not all. Date #3. I’ve never met anyone like him before.
We dance in my dining room until 2am. He was a DJ when at university, but there’s nothing that explains why he’d be the best guy to take to a wedding. He intrinsically knows how to twirl me around.
We are almost exactly the same age (he’s two months older). He plays me Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder, George Michael, Paul Young… we spin my old records: Aznavour and Françoise Hardy and Billy Ocean. “Anchor yourself to me,” he demands as he spins me around. I don’t know how to let men lead. So much of this is trust. I let go a little bit.
“I feel like you’re holding back,” he whispers later on the couch. We were both half asleep at the hour. I open my sleepy eyes to find him staring and smiling at me in a way that was welcome and not creepy. “I just want you to know you can be yourself with me.”
I’m going to try. I’m still figuring out how to just “be” let alone do it in front of others. But I haven’t been this happy around a man in a long time. I’m going to have to TRUST, in ALL CAPS.
So you’re probably wondering about Mr. Saturday Night. I mean, I’ve been seeing him for nine…? ten months now, and it’s been delightfully challenging in terms of learning. But didn’t we always know this wasn’t ever going to be the real deal?
I don’t know why for certain. When we are together we are thoroughly engaged in one another’s company. But perhaps it’s because from the beginning, it was always just for me. I didn’t want to see this relationship through the context of the eyes of my cherished friends, because that would burst my romantic Bohemian bubble of an affair.
I ADORE him. When we’re together, when he has energy to give and is full of stories and curiosity, I drink him in. I ENJOY him, his company, his stories, the lines in his face, how his hands seem impossibly small for someone who can do so much with them. How his mind is always jumping to creative projects, how he’s passionate about his work, about what he can contribute to this fair city, his impact. What a devoted dad he is… but… well you’ve read various iterations of this hemming and hawing for months now.
I didn’t want to assume that a 56-year-old lifelong bachelor would not be ideal for coupledom. The thing is, until recently, I wasn’t sure I wanted I even wanted coupledom. There’s a difference between companionship and partnership. I had a companion and while I never got the chance to test out this theory, I still believe that if I had a +1 to an event, he would be lovely to take with me. He could charm the pants out of any room.
When we started out I’d asked him over text what exactly he wanted out of a relationship. He’d said something along the lines of, “If a person wanted something casual, I’d be into that. But I’m also open to the possibility of magic.” And that’s just what it’s been. It’s been casual AND magical. And while we are both kind humans who offer each other support, there’s been nothing, NOTHING, to suggest that the opportunity for partnership is there.
I get into these strange thought patterns where I wonder if he’s assuming all these things about me and that’s why he’s not able to talk feelings or give an generous compliment. But then I go over the facts. He has not shown himself to be someone for whom romantic generosity comes easily to outside the bedroom (where he gives his ALL). He’s in love with the history of our city and his telling of it. He has space in his heart for his adult child, his adorable dog, but does he want to make room in there for me?
And if he did, wouldn’t it just freak me the fuck out, because I know this isn’t right in the long run? But is it not right because he decided that, with a look, when we first met? Or is it not right because it’s just not and it’s time to let go?
I have other single mom friends who are now partnered up, and they all have a longing look in their eye when they talk about that one certain lover. “Ah, my Turk,” says one friend, recounting nights spent smoking pot and talk serious pothead talks about existentialism and the theories of the universe, before making love on his mattress on the floor.
So please don’t judge me too harshly that I went to see him on a Saturday after a month of only random texts. That I went to see Mr. SN, even though I’ve met Monsieur Magique and would like nothing more than to spend the rest of this gloriously new year exploring what that could be. See, I’ve spent a lifetime being taught to be monogamous, and while I do truly believe that I’m inherently monogamous, no one has asked me to be exclusive yet…
…But a boy did ask if he could hold my hand while we crossed the street to a bistro on one late December night, causing a shiver up my spine. And I do REALLY, REALLY want that to be more than just the most magical first date I’ve ever experienced (and a pretty great second date in January). But in the meantime, I’m guarded, I’m cautious. Is Mr. SN like a lottery ticket you know probably isn’t a winner, but you keep in your wallet anyway, just in case it might ferment into a winner the longer you hang on to it?
How do I say goodbye? All my past breakups were messy, teary dramatic affairs. And usually someone had really wronged me. But Mr. SN is a dear friend now. I hope he is always in my life in some way. I feel so blessed that I’ve gotten to know him a bit. He has done SO MUCH, without realizing it, for me on my road to self-acceptance. To embracing my sexual self free of past scars, free of patriarchal religious ideals.
There was a time in the recent past, when Mr. SN really needed a friend. I was someone he could confide in, so I couldn’t kick a man while he was down. But at the same time, staying put in this limbo relationship (where we’re not FB friends, we don’t ever hold hands, and I’m only ever introduced as a “friend”) is subconsciously keeping me from fully moving forward into the present and into the possibility of a future with Monsieur Magique.
I’ve been trying to “optimize my life” to such a point, that I’ve been head down and focusing on a lot of unsexy things like, “Make your bed every day,” and, “Pay off your credit cards by January.” Sure, these tasks will make me a more responsible human, but in talking to Dr. X I realized that I’d stopped dreaming. That in an attempt to stay in the present moment, I’d stopped truly imagining what my future could be.
Part of that is that I am a hopeful romantic, and I don’t trust myself. I worry, as do lots of my closest friends and family, that I will end up choosing another version of my ex-husband, another Peter Pan. I don’t trust that things are different now; that I’m not a 20-something this time and in the two decades that have passed I have learned a few things and have become a more fully actualized individual. Shortly after I met Monsieur Magique (MMmm), I wrote in my journal, “It’s too soon to tell if what I am feeling is truth or imagination, but something in me says that my sunny heart sees the sunshine of MM’s heart shining back. I’m curious about it.”
So I’m spinning a bit, which we all know I do. A friend asked whether I shouldn’t just “stop spending energy looking for a man at all right now. Why not spend the energy getting into the headspace you want to be in, then seeing clearly the kind of partner you deserve?” (Clearly some friends are getting tired of all the questioning… as am I, as I edit this weeks after first drafting it!)
The thing is, I’ve spent two years trying to get grounded, centred. I’m ready to explore groundlessness. Giving up on the idea of getting ground. As RuPaul says, we’re all just the universe pretending to be humans for a time. I don’t want to get hung up in my identity any longer. In labels and definitions and in using my great taste in ALL THE THINGS to define me. When I wrote all those paragraphs above, I wasn’t grounded. I can see that clearly now, two weeks later, after going through some major things. (A WHOLE ‘NOTHER POST).
I’ve lost the ending to this a bit, which is fitting, given I’m trying to determine how to close the chapter of Mr. Saturday Night. Even the super fun, super delicious in life gets boring if there’s no substance. If you decided to eat nothing but hipster donuts for a week because you felt entitled to that experience, you’d not be wrong, it wouldn’t be bad really. But in time, you’d probably be craving something healthier, something with sustenance that could fuel your body better. My next post will deal with the metaphysical more directly, because it matters to this story and where I’m at in my journey. In the meantime, I’ve decided not to reach out to Mr. SN at all and see what happens next. More to come.