On your advice, I am also continuing to plod through dating, and giving myself permission to do things I normally wouldn’t do*. I bought a dress to wear with boots. I bought tights. I have a fresh stockpile of contact lenses. I have two kinds of perfume.
* Unfortunately, this does not include relationships with hilarious, caring, considerate, and emotionally mature men. Rather, here is the list of recent never done that before dates:
1. Short Guy check – 5’7″, even with his lizard cowboy booties. I think I already told you about him,”Luxury Realtor.” Went to dinner at a winery up north, he asked very little about me. The absolute deal-breaker was when I asked him a question about something and he gave it a “thumbs up”… but I couldn’t even see his tiny little digit.
2. Old Guy check – 62, a whopping 16 yrs my senior. But he seemed nice, funny, interested in me. Listed his high income on his profile, which we all know is like kryptonite for me and my extravagant lifestyle. Met him at downtown bar and we had a decent enough conversation, but I was totally distracted by his hooded eyelids and neck wattle. Plus, at one point he asked me if he had spit on me and that’s an automatic turn-off (regardless of whether it happened or not, because then I have the visual). He was a good listener except for the times he cut me off to get back to “himself”. He would like to pursue more, but I think I will bow out (just too many numbers between 46 & 62). So far I’ve been able to avoid him on grounds of So, So Busy, which is true.
Engineer, check. Oops, he was so unmemorable that I almost forgot to add him to the list. Very nice guy, very kind, very agreeable, accommodating and sincere. When I asked him why he was divorced (the first time), he said he wasn’t sure, he probably would’ve stayed married but he guessed there were some problems. When I asked him why he was divorced (the second time) he said it was a total surprise to him. But he guessed there were some problems. After two dates, I realized he’s the kind of guy who would eventually agree with anything I said or did. While that has its appeal on some levels, ultimately I need a more dynamic, self-possessed man.
3. Military Motorcycle Guy check, check – Sorry to report, he’s a complete loser. Starting with old profile pictures reflecting a fantasy version of himself 8-10 yrs younger and 20 pounds lighter. And ending with the sense that what he’s really looking for is the shortest, least effort-intensive path to getting laid that he can possibly find. He doesn’t even live in town, was just working here for a while before heading back up to Red Canyon (“It’s only 2 hours north!!”). We met at a documentary movie, he proceeded to talk about himself the entire time and literally did not ask a single question about me. Not even one. I realized that his whole, “I’m so shy, I don’t know how to call women or do this online dating thing…” is BS. Translate: I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to take time away from Monday night football to talk on the phone and I’m so cute you’ll just love me regardless. Ugh. When I told him I wasn’t interested in a second date he seemed stunned and continued to text me with gems like, “I actually miss you. Interesting…”, and, “I laid in bed all night dreaming of the possibilities with you.” I wondered if that activity involved his hand.
I guess I never cease to be amazed at the depth and expanse of bullshit in the form of online profiles. So, I’m quitting. I just can’t take it anymore. The vicious cycles of hope and disappointment. It’s worn me thin. On good days I’m fine with it. On bad days I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life alone and wonder why I was somehow left off the relationship carousel when other people jump on, and stay on, so easily.
So, that’s the update and the juicy little tidbits from my dating life for your vicarious pleasure. I think you people are like Munchausen friends, secretly helping keep me single so you can live out your single fantasies through me. Like that camera that someone attached to an eagle… ha ha, not really. But wouldn’t that make a good movie?
It is no use wondering
at what might have been
the grace and beauty, the terrible softness.
Grieving the loss of the unrevealed and immeasurable.
Dwell here instead
in your blessed and broken life
loving the clean white shape of things
as they are
expecting nothing, honoring it all.
I’ve been this way for a long time. I guess it was the recent 6 months (or 8, if you count the 2 months of Not-Knowing) that were the anomaly.
I was single for many years before that. Most of my life, actually.
That’s a question I’ve asked my self for a cat’s age and here are the most recent reasonable reasons freshly sprung from the mire:
1. I can be alone. Lots of people can’t. They’d rather be in a mediocre relationship — or worse — than be alone. Not me. I’m introverted. I like quiet. I can be alone. (=Social loneliness. Doesn’t bother me. Intimate loneliness… dries me up from the inside, a dull choreographed ache.)
2. It took me quite a few years to work through the trauma of being abandoned by the idiot I married. While pregnant. For another woman. Who he also got pregnant. While every single one of my other friends and siblings enjoyed happy marriages, starting their new families together. Many. Many. Years. Of an indescribable cold and hungry pain.
3. For the past 15 years my focus has been almost exclusively on my work and raising my daughter. Haven’t been willing to give up much time from either for a man who may or may not turn out to be a sociopath. Or good partner.
That’s about all I can think of. I’m a nice person. I have all my limbs and appropriate weight-height and good hair and people seem to like me. Lots of friends. How many times have I heard, I can’t believe you’re single! ?? The well-meaning but cliché comments of friends trying to be supportive.
Sudden Change of Subject
Would you like to hear about my week? You might laugh at this. I’m trying to laugh, but somehow I think I’m being laughed at, the butt of a big cosmic dating joke.
I was working at an event last weekend and a guy shows up that I’d met online…mmm… 4 years ago? Arthur. We went out for about a month and when I think What was I thinking? I’ll remind you[me]:
Loneliness is a great motivator.
So, I guess I was originally interested because he’s a creative type, smart, runs a successful handmade book business. A little quirky, out of the box. But the quirks and self-focus eventually outweighed all other appealing qualities.
Take, for example, his dog. A pure-bred purchased something that he insisted accompany him everywhere. Everywhere. This meant our dates were limited to places with dog patios, activities that didn’t involve leaving the dog in the car too long, and no movies. Was this a young puppy that needed constant attention? Oh no. Almost two. Was this a dog that would be all alone if Arthur wasn’t there? Oh no. There was a roommate and two other dogs at home. I wish I could tell you why this dog enjoyed, in Arthur’s esteem, the status of a celestial incarnation too precious to be without, the embodiment of perfection itself, but I cannot. It was weird. He talked to/about the dog more than me.
Weirder still? He was the one who broke things off (requesting instead a friendship that never happened) while I, for incomprehensible and embarrassing reasons, still believed that “we” could work around his quirks (and I’m not even talking about the stringy hair and extra teeth). My ego was bruised and I felt the usual disappointment, but that’s about it.
So Arthur shows up at this event. With a girlfriend (?). I tried to pretend I didn’t see him but he sidled up next to me at one point, leaving me with no choice, Oh, hi Arthur. What brings you here?
Eventually, he introduced me to the woman whose name I can’t remember but let’s call her Asterisk. I was obligated to chitchat because there she was, knowing no one else and looking at me with questioning doe eyes. So, I chitted. She was from another state, a professional energy healer who had flown out to get a better sense of Arthur’s business because she was also a writer and was going to do some copy-writing for his web site. Translate: They met online, she’s tall, pretty, and half his age, and he’s been flying her out for visits ever since. Plus, she can heal his energy. Which in my experience was very insecure and vaguely condescending, but whatever.
It was an uncomfortable interaction. They lingered at the event for more than an hour as I overheard her talk in soft pastel pantones about how wonderful Arthur (and the dog) were. She helped him pick out things to buy. She was very attentive.
Why was this upsetting?
Because I saw a woman very different from myself and they seemed happy and I wondered: if I were more willing to be all about him in relationships, would I have more plentiful and longer-lived opportunities? If I were doting and submissive and ethereal instead of strong, independent and thoughtful… would men like me more? (Men, if you’re reading…?) Like Arthur, I know that Scott will eventually find someone who does not challenge or question him. His good looks, money, and superficial charm will be enough. She will not question what he says or does because it will be to her benefit. She will happily be All About Him. The world is full of noodle-y women.
I don’t mean this to come off as arrogant and I’m not even saying that these qualities I possess are good… they just are. The way I am. The way I was made. And sometimes I hate it.
But wait! My week isn’t over.
Another Sudden Change of Subject
Know what else? Remember Holy Roller from last summer? Well, I discovered…. he’s dating…. my next-door neighbor!! I know this because I spotted him leaving her house one day. Fortunately, he didn’t see me.
I love my neighbor, mostly because she’s inconspicuous and I rarely see or hear her. Until now. Because guess why? She got a hot tub and installed it against the wall that separates our backyards — a veritable sound tunnel. So, yeah. My 2013 garden soundtrack will be of neighbor and the Holy Roller hot tubbing it all summer. Know what’s worse than hot tub noises?
Hot tub silence.
Bubbles but no words.
Are you laughing yet? I’m trying, but still the tears seem too full of something other than mirth. On this 25th of April. The day I’m single. The day I wonder how and who I should be. The day my father died all those years ago, changing the course of the course in ways I still cannot fathom.
I cannot begin to express my surprise and disappointment at discovering that the man who has pursued spiritual study in the Mennonite, Catholic, mystic, Buddhist, and various Christian traditions; who holds a PhD in Psychology and is committed to “mindfulness”; who impressed my family with stories of care and compassion at the homeless shelter he started…. has been so utterly lacking in honesty, integrity, personal responsibility, empathy, and basic kindness.
Those are the last [written] words I will likely ever speak to Former Dream Guy, delivered in the form of a letter to his doorstep a few days after he exited my garden like a scared animal. Former Dream Guy. The guy who, as it turns out, wears his integrity like a coat, easily removable when life get itchy. Hard for me to understand because I have a baseline of core values that does not change, even in the face of conflict or disappointment. It is my skin, inseparable from the whole. Maybe you are the same? It’s not an arrogant thing–I make plenty of mistakes and can behave like an a-hole sometimes–but at least I know and embrace it.
More importantly than How could I be so fooled? is the reminder: he is, among other things, a narcissist. But I’ve dealt with narcissists before (click those links to learn more if you suspect the same), why did I fall into the same trap?
One of the reasons N-people are so tricky-tacky is because they are forever pursuing The Ideal: person, partner, career, religion, as a way to enhance their own image. They search for what is essentially lacking in themselves, perhaps believing on some level in beauty-brains-depth-integrity-significance-talent-whatever by association. Filling their empty castle with sand from your pile. Hitching their wagon to your star. Gaining entrance into your life by becoming like you, and all the while adoring you, their ideal.
But of course, pedestals are too precarious to stand on for long (especially when you do not realize where your delicate feet have alighted in a narcissist’s landscape) and every human is beautifully flawed. So every Ideal will ultimately disappoint. And then it’s on to the next pursuit. Failed Ideal switched off like a light. You are collateral damage.
But for that time when you are in the N-person’s sights: oh.
With Former Dream Guy whom I’ll now call Scott because I don’t care, he stepped into my life as a wild meadow with an endless horizon of clean blue possibility. A beautiful package indeed. I suppose I was too willing to trust because of the package: common friends & experiences, what I thought were shared values, a genuine compatibility on every level, and what seemed to be a rabid interest in me. Good reputation in the community. Good recommendation from a mutual friend. And then there are the usual traps: tall, handsome, intelligent. Wealthy.
Believe it or not, my first response when I saw his profile pic & income was This guy’s handsome AND he’s got money? He’s got to be a jerk. Intuition. But also based on too many experiences with really good-looking and/or wealthy men: crispy on the outside, raw on the inside. Which is why I normally go for Quirky or at least Funny instead.
Everything was dreamy until he changed the agreement — from when divorce to if divorce — and asked me to continue being discreet and I said no. I stopped agreeing with his plan, I questioned his motives and honesty. He was wonderful as long as he was in control and I fit into his plan. But when that ended, so did I. All. About. Him.
So I suppose this is what I say:
Self, do not blame you. There was no way to see these colors until they became colorful. He is not interested in the truth, he is interested in agreement. And that is not your fault. You led with hope and love instead of fear and suspicion. Would you have it any other way?
And for today, I move on from this or I try. Still tearful and feeling suckered backward into the abandonment of a husband, a father, a life that should’vecould’ve been mine but is forever just out of reach. A too-familiar loneliness.
While I try not to integrate the feelings of rejection and failed love, allowing them to become my limiting and influencing Truth, it is hard. A bird will only fly into a window so many times before it just changes course. Or breaks its soft animal body against the illusion.
A collection of low-lights from the last conversation. Three things first: 1. He didn’t call until he’d been back in town for a week, and then waited to call until it was his parenting week (limiting opportunities to meet). 2. He didn’t suggest getting together (coward), so I did. 3. And during that first phone call, he baited me with a lurid reference to how he’d come back from CA, but then left again for a week to a local tourist town (presumably not alone but with a new romance?), then returned. I didn’t bite.
How did we (meaning you) go from planning to travel together to complete silence?
I was so busy, had so much going on. After you sent that email, I just didn’t feel there was any room for our relationship.. And I don’t do the “silent treatment.” No, I don’t do that.
Well, it was pretty silent on my end. Pret-ty silent.
I believe I communicated…. And also, the nature of our relationship has changed, so….
Oh, so I’ve gone from being your lover to someone who doesn’t deserve the common courtesy of returning a phone call?
I called you back like… a week later.
It was two weeks. And that really doesn’t qualify as a returned call anymore.
After you sent that email, I felt painted into a corner, like our perspectives are just so different, that there was no way out, no way to have a relationship because we’re not on the same page with my situation. I’m continuing with a “transition” from being married to a new kind of relationship with my wife as friends and co-parents. I may never get a divorce because I feel that’s what’s best. This is what I’m choosing. After going back and forth for eight weeks while I was away, I decided that our perspectives are too different so there’s no way for us to have a relationship right now.
Oh? You decided? And what is my perspective? And if that’s true, then why did you initiate contact with me and invite me to CA for a road trip a month ago?
Well, my communication with you from CA…. was a mistake. I sent you mixed messages and I shouldn’t have. And, your perspective was those things you said in the email…
That email was written two months ago. What is my perspective now?
I don’t know.
No, because you didn’t ask. “My perspective” is that I’d like some answers, to clear up some of the confusion in the wake of so much email and phone communication, water under the bridge. I felt very hurt because you’ve never once acknowledged or validated my feelings, my experience, or the situation that led to “the email” in the first place.
From my perspective….
Have you noticed your tendency to respond to what I say about my own feelings with “from my perspective”?
You broke my heart up down and sideways. Not because our relationship might be over or even because of the betrayal, if there’s someone else. You broke my heart because you didn’t have the courage to be honest with me. To honor and respect me.
You’ve never taken responsibility for the fact that you changed the agreement, changed your mind about getting a divorce.
When we first met, my intention was to get a divorce, but the situation changed in September. You knew that.
This isn’t about September. It’s about December to Jan, when you said you needed to get your family through the holidays and then you’d ask for a divorce and I agreed to that, for a limited time.
[silence]. I’ve decided that the best thing for my family is to transition slowly in to a new relationship with Wife blah blah blah blah I have no desire to return to the marriage but I don’t think divorce is necessary blah blah blah blah Because of your harsh words in that email…
We’re not talking about the email, we’re talking about your choice, the responsibility you have here. Why do you keep going back to that email? We had an hour-long phone conversation about it in January and came to an understanding.
We did? I have no memory of that….
And on and on in a similar fashion of him blaming me and “that email” for the break-up, refusing to examine his own behavior, never once telling me that he loved or cared for me, and staring blankly when I — using my best “I feel,” non-accusatory diction — told him how I felt. Seriously. Not a single I’m sorry or I know I’ve hurt you but that wasn’t my intention or any other acknowledgement. A freaking 53-yr-old man with a PhD in Psychology!
It’s not the relationship ending that hurts the most — that was always a possibility — it’s that the person has ended. The person who introduced himself to me all those months ago, who pursued me and called me lovely, the only passionate love he’d ever experienced… just doesn’t exist. Or, at best, he is a split person, a fair-weather lover who morphs into a cold beast when his needs are no longer being met.
[to be continued]
The Last ConversationConversion: Similar to The Last Supper but without all twelve fumblingly human Disciples
When we last visited our confused and somewhat desperate heroine, she was contemplating whether or not to see former Dream Guy whenif he contacted her upon his return to Utopia in the Desert.
What Happened In Between
He did not call on his return. It was learned through a mutual friend that former Dream Guy came back and left again in rapid succession for reasons unknown. But suspected (after having been absent for two months why would a person leave again for a week… alone? No.) After a few twisted days of what-mighta-ha-a-pened an accident-emergency-mysterious illness? I picked up the phone, called, and left a voice mail.
It was not returned.
Two weeks later, a phone message arrives, “Hi! It’s me, I’m back in town, I’ve been back for a week, we should touch bases — an interesting word choice for one who waybackwhen skipped right over first and second and arrived at Home sooner than he should’ve — but Ok that was my bird out of the cage too. Curiosity.
A meeting was arranged at My Place, formerly the garden of longing looks and appreciative touches and now, now just two chairs on a worn-down deck facing the garden-not-growing-yet. After an exchange of general pleasantries how ARE you?? What IS new?? I asked what is going on.
And in a long, convoluted, too-terrible-to-translate, he essentially estimated that I Had Ruined Everything in the form of aforementioned email calling out his bullshit, a mirror of sorts that showed him something perhaps more wicked than white. But it was the Truth as I experienced it, as one in a loving relationship is expected and even obligated to share.
The details are not so important as this, rather dramatic and stunning understanding which has rattled me to the porcelain core:
I fell for another Narcissist [aaaaaaah cried the Crowd as she named Lion and not Lover. There will be no further mauling this fine day.]
And we’re not talking about the fable guy stuck staring at his own reflection, we’re talking about self-centered to the point of being incapable-culpable of understanding how his behavior affects other people. Please don’t ask for a hug from the guy with no arms. An All About Me whose focus will always be his own needs, his own perspective, fortification of his own ego.
Unfortunately, I’ve had more than my share of dealings with narcissistic men, starting with the idiot I married.
In considering How, How could I have been blind after so much post-marital fieldwork: therapy, books, experience?? Well, my friends, let me educate you a little — in the next post, I’m afraid, as I’m still a bit tired, picking through my pieces — on the tricks and trades of narcissists so that you can perhaps avoid the trap or maybe, some of you, stop blaming yourselves for shortcomings or flaws or impulsive emails when there is no cause for blame. And don’t worry, there will be lots of examples from my continuing story, juicy bits of flesh closest to the bone where poets say it is the sweetest.
Something You Might Not Know (because I would be nothing without my Catholic upbringing). Or: Foreshadowing
1. Satan, sa-tanas in old Hebrew and Greek is adversary, accuser, one who throws things in the path of another. And in Sanskrit, one of the world’s most ancient languages, all variations translate to TRUTH. Mantra Sa Ta Na Ma. See how slippery?
2. Sin was originally a Greek archery term meaning missing the mark. Sins are not so much nasty little things people do, bad behaviors (I suspect that was superimposed by CorporationCatholic much later in order to commodify absolution).
Sin. A state of being. Out of alignment… with the truth, with what is good, with life, with one’s truest self.
I heard someone describe it once–grief–as trying to swim in a sleeping bag.
I think that is true.
A meeting with the Former Love, or perhaps Lovely Residue of Love Once Shared.
At least now, having grieved a general grief, I know what it is to lament. What quiet thing in socks it is that I mourn.
I will tell you all you helpful souls about it when I can consider things in more than images.
8:00 Where are u?
8:05 Why haven’t u called or txted?
8:15 Are we still together?
8:17 Don’t you like me anymore?
8:20 I guess not.
9:00 Well, it was nice while it lasted.
9:04 You were really GR-8 in bed.
9:07 But I understand that it’s over now.
9:10 Was it something I said?
11:02 U R seeing other people, aren’t you?
11:05 Dickhead, you lied, I trusted you!
11:07 I thought I was the only woman you’ve ever passionately ♥ ♥ ♥’d??!!
11:59 Here is our break-up song.
12: 13 You can pick up your things on my porch.
12:14 Get back 2gether? I don’t think so.
12:33 Well, maybe.
12:40 But I would need to feel u are truly sorry, that u regret ur unilateral decision.
1:01 Flowers, chocolate, a nice bottle of wine (unopened), Target gift card.
1:08 I need some time to think about it.
1:42 I listen to this when I’m considering getting back together.
2:00 Don’t call me, I’ll call u.
2:32 Do u want me to call?
2:58 Are you interested at all in my forgiveness?
I’m thinking today about the ordinary.
The extreme ordinary–if there is such a thing–not extraordinary today but essentialordinary.
Of those future days when Nothing happens and we like each other anyway.
Nowhere to go, nothing to see, no family to meet or dog to bond with or new skill to learn. No one wondering where you are or waiting for you to come back. No washing myself after we’ve made love.
Just an empty being with each other outside of need or even desire: for companionship or excitement or not-aloneness, being un-married or for a magical some-thing/one that will usher in a new life. But that new life is the thing itself, I know, even while not being new, but very ordinary. Worn. Wrinkled.
Lived-in past the mid-way point.
I’m feeling a little tangled up today about this, the longlong marriage and your still-wife in a completely different place of [denial] I want to work on things and change and I could never date anyone else this isn’t happening despite the obvious facts. I feel great compassion for her because I Understand — having been on all sides, though different contexts. You are two contrasting people who made it work thanks to mega(suffocating)-compromise for 24 yrs and you can’t do it anymore, I know. (And my heart opens for you too, especially for you.) But she can, because it’s better than the alternative of Nothing and no imagination to evoke a Better Something.
As you might discern from these flowing sentences, I’ve been a little preoccupied! I love that you are careful not to trample me but still… I look forward or backward to the day when We can become a We outside of an unended marriage. Something ordinary and spectacular.
And mysterious because really, I do not know how I will shine for you apart from this situation. Apart from the particular needs and desires of this case-in-point. Will I still shine for a loving man who has in a certain quiet and intangible respect been trying to break up with someone for 24 years?
One more step, close my eyes, disappear into the question. Or how I will ever trust the answer.
Thank you for listening and don’t worry, I do not need a response. I don’t want to talk about it, really, the need today is a more selfish one of dislodging from my own person these thoughts which might also be influenced — I am aware — by other factors including sudden job changes and a nostalgic mood evoked by a clear blue-golden-and sun-filled October day in a season when things begin to die, which as I’ve said, does not scare me. But living without those I love–
a frightening life that could swallow me whole.