Archive for July, 2013

posted by Amy on Jul 27

I’ve been dating, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. No, I really mean it. Relationships are the only way we can truly see ourselves. It’s as if other people hold up mirrors where we can more clearly see our strengths and flaws. Dating is a chance to have this experience while also meeting other single people who may or may not want the same thing. First I tried true.com, but I dropped it for a number of reasons, like getting “matches” who were totally unsuitable, and being sent notices that said “So and So” was looking for “girls” aged 49 to 62. To be fair, it is unlikely that the men knew True.com thought it’s OK to refer to women old enough to be grandmothers as girls, but it creeped me out. Then I signed up for eHarmony. On paper that looks like a good system, but so far I’ve found it useless.

So on July 16 I tossed a message into the murky waters of Craigslist, in the “women seeking men” section. Surprisingly, most of the responses I got were sincere. The post has already expired, but this is what it said:

Happy, contented woman seeks one good, honest man – 59 (Brighton)

I am a happy, emotionally secure woman doing something I love. I have many friends–some I’ve known for 40 years or more, and some I just met a few months ago. I am open to new experiences and new people. I am friendly, kind-hearted, loving, loyal and honest. I have grown children who live elsewhere. I don’t have any crazy exes.

I am seeking a long term, monogamous, committed relationship with a man who is comfortable in his own skin, loves his life, and has taken the time to figure out who he really is and what he really wants. I want a friend, lover, partner, mentor, brother, confidant and advocate, and I will reciprocate. I want all the pleasures of having a beloved true companion–joking and laughing, talking and storytelling, going places, dining, exploring, traveling, and sharing all the ways two people can give and receive sexual pleasure and satisfaction.

I have a lot of energy and I’m physically fit. 5’6″, wavy salt and pepper hair (formerly dark), blue eyes, and some freckles. More of a Maryann than a Ginger, but I know how to dress up. I smile quite a bit. I’m not hung up on body type, height, race and other externals, but please be clean, neatly dressed, financially responsible and 100% single. You also need to be educated, preferably a professional. Oh, and if you smoke–anything, at any time–that’s a nonstarter for me.

If this sounds interesting and applicable to you, send me an email describing yourself. If not, then best of luck to you and thanks for reading my post.

I think the whole purpose of a first date is to size each other up, see if there’s any spark of affinity or interest, and see if you enjoy each other’s company. It’s a way to get a rough idea if you want the same things, and it’s a “success” whether the answer to that is affirmative or negative. For a first date you should go someplace you’d like to go anyway, and not too far away. Meet for coffee, ice cream or a glass of wine. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve done this, and two of my first three dates helped me remember why a bit of prescreening helps us keep from wasting our time. You can tell a lot from a few emails and a phone conversation.

My worst experience so far was a man who had no conversational skills. We met for a drink. He did most of the talking, and it was all about what he is looking for. For all that, there really wasn’t much detail: “companionship,” a “serious relationship,” a “good” relationship. He’s Irish, so I expected I’d at least hear a few interesting stories. Sadly, he didn’t get the whole gift of gab. Lots of gab; no gift. He mentioned that his brother had won the lottery. If my brother won a big lottery jackpot I’d at least have a story about that. Nuthin’.

Remember when Katie Couric asked Sarah Palin what newspapers she reads, and the answer was, “All of them”? Our conversation was like that. He said he’s a good cook. I asked him what he likes to cook. He said, “Everything.” He did say his ex wife was Italian. But somehow he didn’t see a conversation starter there. I asked him if he likes sports. He said he and his family have season tickets to the Patriots and they go to all the games. Again, that might have been a good place for an anecdote, but he didn’t elaborate, not even after I asked him what those family outings are like. He did comment that the football player in Miami who committed murder had thrown away a great life. I said I didn’t think people put a lot of thought into consequences in situations like that. Crime of passion and all. He didn’t respond to what I said, just repeated his observation, with slightly different wording. I asked what he means by a “great relationship?” Answer, “Everything.” He said he likes to go dancing. “Where?” “Everywhere.” He mentioned he wanted to go to Ireland. I asked what he wanted to see. He didn’t know. I said I went to Ireland just last May. He didn’t ask any follow-up questions.

About halfway in I told him it didn’t look like we had much in common. Again, that might have been a clue for him to try to seek common ground, or say something interesting, but he didn’t. Instead he got defensive, and just a mite hostile. He said he likes to hug and kiss, and he’s looking for a sexual relationship. I assured him that I do indeed enjoy sex with my partner, but I said it would take a lot more than that to hold my interest.

He told me he meets women to date all the time when he goes dancing, and he “never” goes onto Craigslist. But his friends have told him his dates are beautiful but dumb. So he thought he’d check out CL. Suddenly his main selling point was that he’s not as crazy as the other people on Craigslist. Damning with faint praise, but OK. He said if he wanted to he could have a new woman every night, but he doesn’t want that. He told me if I didn’t want to date him I’d be “missing out.” Maybe, but in his one chance to show me what it might be like to spend more time with him, he was alternately annoying and boring me.

In one of the few moments when I tried to take a turn to talk about myself, I began, “I don’t need a man. . . .” He interrupted, saying, “Why do women always say that?” Then he went off on a rant about something. I don’t quite remember what.

This is what I would have said if he had let me finish, and it is what I want every commitment-averse man around my age who might want to date me to know:

By saying I don’t need a man, I mean to say that if what you are offering me is anything short of the best, most loving, most joyful, most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever had, then I don’t want you. In order for it to have a chance to become all those things you have to know me, really know me. You have to be kind, gracious, warm, honest, intuitive, intelligent, creative, trusting, wise, insightful, and self-aware. You have to be a person of substance.

If we commit to one another I want you to be proud to be my man. I want you to think you’re lucky to know me. I want you to be eager to share your thoughts and feelings with me, to describe your day, to bring me souvenirs of it, to erect shrines to our love wherever you go. And I want to be and do all those things for you.

You say you don’t ever want to marry again. By telling me now, when we have only just met, that you will never marry again, not even if I turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you, you are saying you think someone better might come along, or that you already know that you aren’t really that into me, or that you realize these things tend to run their course and you will be on your way when the excitement wears off. I want someone who’s willing to make a commitment because, if I am not everything you want in a life partner, then maybe we can be friends, but we will never be lovers. If you are not everything I want in a life partner, then I will not have a fling with you just to help you temporarily assuage your loneliness or shore up your flagging self esteem. I will spend a lot of time getting to know you, and letting you get to know me, before hopping into bed with you. If you’re not all-in, if you don’t want to bet the farm on one more chance at a meaningful, beautiful, exceptional love story, then you should know right now I’m not going to have sex with you.

I’m not a prude. I’m not trying to get your money or a fancy engagement ring or a symbolic victory. It’s not extortion. I’ve had halfway commitments and halfhearted loves. I’ve tried keeping it casual. I’ve tried purely recreational sex. I don’t need any more of that. I deserve better.

Yesterday was my second date with a gentleman I met for ice cream a week ago. He told me he only thinks you need to be married if you want kids. (He has two daughters. He’s divorced.) We went for a hike, then had a picnic dinner. We had a nice time, and had plenty to talk about. He suggested we go to the Kennedy Museum next Friday to see the Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit, and I told him I would like that, depending on my study schedule. But as I was exiting his car to go to the T he said that I don’t seem all that captivated by him. I said, “For now, anyway, you’re in the ‘Friend Zone.’ If that’s OK with you, then I’m happy to keep seeing you.” He looked crestfallen. I said, “Don’t be hurt.”

He’s been honest with me, and I appreciate that. He seems to be into temporary liaisons with women he hides from his daughters and his church friends, and I have no desire to do that dance with him. (If I did want a secret, sex-only fling, I’d pick a much younger man. In terms of pure aesthetics, younger bodies are more beautiful, and younger men are more virile–though not necessarily better sex partners.)

The Gaelic term anam cara covers what I’m seeking. It means “soul friend.” The anam cara relationship isn’t necessarily sexual, but it is lifelong, spiritual, honest, and open. It involves two people sharing a deep awareness of and reverence for each other. It involves truly seeing and knowing one another, and creating a safe space for one another to be undefended, innocent, childlike, and free.

Most of the men I’ve been meeting seem to be just muddling through life asleep. I used to do that too, so they have my sympathy. One guy is obviously quite hurt by his ex wife’s rejection of him, and by how her assessment of him as a “loser” has tarnished his relationship with his children. One widower was obviously in a great deal of pain and still feeling lonely and lost five years after his wife died. But he is just old enough (and Irish Catholic to boot) that he really can’t think of a woman as a human being. He described the young women who live in his apartment building as “fresh meat” that, because of his impotence, he can’t “do anything about.” It’s amazing what people will say to strangers on a first date.

The title to this post comes from The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love by Jill Connor. It is one of the most hysterically funny books I have ever read. When I first started reading it I was having lunch by myself in a food court. I began laughing so hard that I almost fell off my chair. People may have been staring at me. I may have drowned out some conversations. I did not care. Chapter 3 is called “The Best Advice Ever Given in the Entire History of the World.” The story that leads up to the punchline is worth the price of the book all by itself, but oh, my goodness, “Be particular” really IS the best advice ever. When I look back on my life and consider all of the messes I could have avoided making if I had simply taken that advice, I am just overwhelmed. (But only momentarily. It’s over and done–can’t do anything about that now).

In the future, though, I can be particular. And I mean to.

I know divorced and widowed men of my generation are wounded. Me too. I know that if you aren’t planning to raise children you might have different criteria for a partner than if you did want kids. I know it’s scary out there. But, damn, guys! Why not go for broke? OK, your marriage didn’t work out, or maybe it did but she up and died on you. So? You’re still here. You still have time–though, at our age, maybe not all that much. One guy told me as we were setting up our first date that his wife had died of breast cancer, so when we got together I figured I should tell him about my diagnosis. To my astonishment, when I did that he said, “I don’t care,” and told me that at the ripe old age of 63 he’s had three heart attacks, two strokes, a triple bypass, prostate cancer, and diabetes. If we got together it might just turn into a race to see who dies first.

A wise therapist said to me, “People can’t have the kind of relationships they want with other people until they have that same kind of relationship with themselves.” First you have to believe you deserve to be happy. Then you have to find what you really care about, and live a life that shows it, which will make you happy. Then you can look for someone whose dreams and visions line up with yours. You’re not dead yet. Make your remaining days count for something. Be your best self and then be prepared to talk about that on dates.

This is not a goddamn dress rehearsal. Carpe diem.

posted by Amy on Jul 22

I attended an open AA meeting where one of the members referred to non-alcoholics as “Earth People.” I think that’s brilliant, and I’m going to steal it to refer to people who grew up in stable, loving homes and have mostly positive memories of their childhoods. Earth People were cherished for their true selves as they were growing up. They have always known who they are and where they belong. Their parents respected each other and modeled lifelong love and commitment for their children. Lucky Earth People.

I have a friend who thinks the reason I’m so driven to figure out relationships, human nature, parenting, and how to heal wounded souls is because I had a rough childhood. This friend thinks the reason she, herself, is not so driven is that she had it pretty good growing up. I don’t know. It’s probably more complicated than that. Different people have different levels of existential angst. We were all raised by human beings who are, by definition, imperfect and fallible. Earth People didn’t have perfect childhoods, but simply “good enough” parents and a sufficiently sane and stable home environment.

Not everyone who was abused as a child grows up to be a child abuser. They don’t even all grow up to be unhappy, divorced, never-married, chronically depressed or any other attribute that might indicate their lives were ruined by their early years. There are many factors in play, including whether there were “enlightened witnesses” in the child’s life, and whether other people provided corrective emotional experiences. For that matter, not all Earth People grow up happy. Happiness is an elusive concept. I took a whole course in “Happiness and Virtue” last fall, and I still don’t have a handle on it.

In an important interview in my ordination process I was asked about my two divorces. Did I think I was prone to entering into dysfunctional relationships? That’s certainly a fair question, given that pastors need to be quite solid emotionally, and should be moral exemplars for their congregations. I pointed out that it was just the two marriages, and that I had learned important things about myself and had experienced a great deal of growth and healing as part of recovering from the divorces.

I am who I am because of all my experiences with all the important people in my life. I wish I could have stayed in some relationships that are over now, but I don’t wish those relationships had never happened. I know I’m not perfect, and I know that many of my character defects come from my background. But I think many of my strengths do too. It is also true that a bad example can be as potent a teaching tool as a good one.

If you think you recognize yourself in some of my thinly-disguised observations, please do not take it personally. I am not judging you. If it gets to you, then that might mean you maybe have the tiniest bit of doubt about yourself, or the slightest suspicion that things are not quite optimal for you. I suggest you calmly open yourself up to that idea and see where it takes you. Recovery is definitely possible. People can change. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.

And if you meet someone and learn of a checkered past, or a crazy family, keep an open mind. You should definitely note it, and be careful. But don’t write that person off too hastily. You might be amazed at what you learn.

 

posted by Amy on Jul 7

Anne Lamott posted this on her Facebook page today. If she had a blog I would link to it. If you are on Facebook, you can go to the source by clicking here. In case you don’t have Facebook, here’s what she wrote. If you know me well, or if you’ve been reading this blog awhile, you’ll understand why I love it so much.

Today is my 27th anniversary of being clean and sober, the greatest miracle of my life. So this brief post is to thank you for your love, support and prayers, which I have always felt as a writer and public person–always….

AND to sneakily try to suck some of you into the web of recovery.

I think there is a tiny, tiny chance that some people reading this, maybe one or two people–I’m sure YOU are just fine–wake up many mornings feeling defeated and insane. These two wake up confused about why on earth they drank–or ate–so much again. Or why they are trying to save yet one more pissed-off person from the catastrophe of that person’s consequences, esp since that person hates and resents all those loving efforts and excellent suggestions? Or why they are once again being shamed by their mate, who actually had TATTOOS on their forehead that said, “Will not be able to love you: will in fact be addicted to withholding love from you.”

Why do you voluntarily make yourself sick and ashamed so often? I mean, that is kind of nuts, isn’t it?

That’s where I was July 7th, 1986, sick and tired of being sick and tired, but scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to write well anymore, that my creative spirit depended on alcohol for its expression, for its existence. I was scared to death that if I stopped drinking, my social life was over, that any sense of wild expansive joy and oneness would dry up. And how could you possibly date without several glasses of wine, and possibly, a few drinks, and then the tiniest bit of neighborly cocaine? (My friend Tom says he also used to have a little social amyl nitrate, but that was just because he was shy.)

But July 7, 1986, I had finally run out of any more good ideas on how to stop the pain and shame of using. So I asked a sober friend to help me. He asked if I could go for one day without a drink. I was sufficiently hungover to think that, yes, I could. I asked for help, and I said Yes. And today, 9855 days and 11 books later, with a son, a grandson, sober and cherished brothers, a gorgeous breathtaking community of closest companions, world travel, daily hikes, well, yes–I definitely think I can go for one more day without a drink.

You can do it, Cinderelli, Cinderelli: I promise that if I can, you can too. Ask someone to help you. You know who I mean. You know one person who has found freedom from the madness and addiction that leaves you feeling such sickness and shame. That’s all you have to do. Say yes, for the one day. That’s all I did.

Dag Hammarskjold wrote, “I don’t know Who — or what — put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone –or Something –and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.”

Come on: now boarding. And happy birthday, Princess Tushie!

Happy AA Birthday, Anne Lamott. And thank you so much for Bird by Bird and all your other nonfiction.

Theme by Eric for Amy, who owns the copyright for this site, and has reserved all rights.