Tag Archives: dating

elevator wisdom

My mother has a boyfriend.  It seems odd to say that of a 73-year-old woman, but what else do you call a man she’s dated for the last 10 years, but isn’t married to and doesn’t live with?  So, “boyfriend” it is.

But really, he’s a member of our family.  I’ll call him “Ted.”  Ted is a wonderful man:  kind, generous to a fault, patient, gentle, but also a “guy’s guy” who has slowed down athletically only because time has insisted upon it.  Ted is like a father to me and a grandfather to my children, and my ex-husband admitted that he was sad to lose Ted in the divorce.  I’d have been, too, if I were him.

Every year, my girls and I vacation in Cancun for a week with Ted and my mom.  It is Ted’s gift to my family, and we all look forward to all year long.  Coming from a land-locked state, my girls have grown up with those white sands and turquoise waters as their beach, and I have relished the giving them that experience.

Ted and I had an instant rapport.  We have some obvious commonalities — similar education, being an only child, same sense of humor — but, more importantly, we just seem to “get” each other.  There is an understanding there that has bound us together for many years now, facing my mother’s health crises, my divorce, his daughter’s addictions.  Despite our difference in age, we give each other advice, and respect it more than either of us does from most people.

One day when we were in Cancun a year and a half ago, I was struggling.  I’d awoken that morning from difficult dreams highlighting the hard choices I’d made recently with regard to my marriage, my children, my work… I felt lost and wondered if I was rushing headlong to disaster.

We were all sitting by the pool late that morning, when Ted announced that he was returning to his villa to retrieve his sun hat.  I took the opportunity to accompany him inside and check my email at my own villa.  As we stepped into the elevator, Ted turned to me, looked me squarely in the eye, and began speaking as if he were resuming a conversation we’d just paused in.  He said this:

Here’s the thing.  My dad wasn’t the smartest guy about some things, but every once in a while, he was pretty wise.  And he used to tell me that once a choice is made, there’s no going back, only forward.  Any choice can seem like a bad one in hindsight, and any choice can seem like a good one.  It depends on how you’re determined to see it.  The trick, he’d say, is to stop thinking of it as a choice once it’s made.  The guessing, the thinking, the analyzing, all that is over.  The choice isn’t a choice anymore; it’s a decision.  Treat it like a foregone conclusion or a mandate from God or however you have to think of it, but don’t look back, only forward.  Seek the opportunities hidden in it and remain open to the possibilities.  Second-guessing will only slow you down, and you’ll especially need the forward momentum if it really was a bad choice.  No matter.  It’s done.  Just look ahead and keep moving.  Okay, here’s my place.  See you down at the pool.

And then he exited the elevator, and I was left, mouth agape, wondering how in the world he’d known what I was struggling with that morning.

Ted was right, of course, and I’ve thought about his words often in the time since.  It’s so easy to play the “what if” game with the benefit of additional information and experience and wisdom, but where does it get us really?  Reflection from a distance can be useful, definitely, but not when it stalls our progress.  Not when it mires us in self-doubt and uncertainty that is likely borne more of fear and insecurity than of a truly rationale evaluation of our earlier decision.  If a decision was truly wrong, we usually know it immediately and can correct our course in that short timeframe.  Revisiting an old decision is usually nothing more than a way to give power to our fears.  Most of us make good decisions, for us, for that moment.  They may not take us where we’d thought they would, but they probably take us where we need to be.

Ted’s advice was exactly what I needed to hit my internal reset button and push past the moribund wallowing in which I was engaging.  Relinquishing the weight of self-doubt and second-guessing frees up so much energy and stamina and clarity to identify and tackle the good stuff that might be just around the corner.

Plus, it gives me time to try and figure out how Ted managed to frame and solve my emotional crisis in the span of a 5-floor elevator ride…..

9 Comments

Filed under dating, divorce, healing, love, personal growth, relationships, sadness, single mom

thomas murray, epilogue

I have been waiting to write this post until the sad missives stopped arriving, and I believe that day has finally come.  The stream of emails to my inbox from hurt or deceived women has ceased.  Jenni is healing and has moved on.  Our blogging community proved itself capable of surrounding and protecting our own.  Thomas Murray, and all his ridiculous, self-aggrandizing attempts at dazzling (and possibly victimizing) women searching for their heart’s love, is a pathetic chapter I will be glad to close.

But not without some final words.

Sometime ago I received an email from a woman I will call “Kay.”  I am choosing to relate her story here because it demonstrates that Thomas’ approaches and avenues are varied and adaptable.  Kay, like a lot of women, found my Thomas Murray posts through a Facebook friend who had also had dealings with Thomas at some point in the past. (Is it just me or are there an exhausting number of such women?!  How in God’s name does he keep track? I’m envisioning a massive Excel spreadsheet…)

But I digress.

Thomas contacted Kay via Yahoo Personals sometime in 2006, using an alias of “Noah.”  She was living in Texas; he in Oklahoma.  She had no idea he was married, and they began “a whirlwind romance.”  She shared some of his loving and romantic phrases with me, and they were easily recognizable as his trademark “love bombing” technique.  (One of my commentators coined that term and, frankly, I freaking love it.  Makes me smile every time….)  According to Noah/Thomas, he was divorced, with two sons, and his ex-wife worked for his mother in their family-owned cosmetic import/export business dealing with high-end department store cosmetic brands. [Note to liars:  pick something you know something about.  There is no import/export business for department store cosmetics.]

Fortunately for Kay, the “in-person” portion of their romance was abruptly interrupted when he told her that his company was relocating him to the Middle East to “stop bad people from doing bad things.”  (Btw, I’m laughing so hard right now I can barely type.  Oh, Thomas, you are nothing if not entertaining!)  They tried to stay in touch, but Kay decided that the relationship didn’t have enough to keep it going.  They agreed to be friends and that seemed to be the end of it.

Reality check:  Sometime in late 2006 or early 2007, Thomas and his family relocated to the Virgin Islands, where they purchased the small resort building that they currently own and manage.  So, unless the Iraqis surreptitiously invaded St. Thomas without the U.S. press or government noticing, it’s a pretty sure bet that he moved to paradise and not a war zone.  But more on his war zone activities later…

Fast forward to 2011: Kay and Thomas stayed occasional email friends over the years, until last spring, when their emails increased in frequency.  Kay reports that Thomas had dramatically changed in the years since she’d really known him, becoming more aggressive and bossy and critical.  She relates how he immediately began offering her “advice” concerning the improvements she needed to make in order to be worthy of him (for those of you keeping track of red flags, this is a big one).  She also noted that he had lost a great deal of weight, which he attributed to the injuries he’d suffered from being ambushed in the Middle East and taking on shrapnel.  Once again, I’m chuckling so hard typing is difficult… Thomas never was one to waste a perfectly good lie.  Might as well get as much mileage as possible out of it, I guess!  As a side note, Kay surmises that he actually had lap-band surgery in the intervening years, as his diet was consistent with the post-surgical maintenance recommended for that procedure.  I find this small point particularly hilarious, given Thomas’ brutal assault on others’ lack of self-discipline….  Guess we all need a little help once in a while, eh, Thomas?  It was also during this time that Thomas began pressuring Kay to meet him in….. <drumroll, please>….  beautiful, sunny Puerto Rico!  She declined, telling me that his “life coaching” had turned her off and she simply stopped communicating with him.

Lucky, lucky woman, no?

Kay, as well as others I heard from, commended Thomas’ excellent taste in women as his one redeeming quality.  I would like to second that sentiment.  Loudly.  I have heard from some very articulate, intelligent women whose email signatures suggest impressive professional achievements.  At least he has that going for him.  What a shame he’ll never be worthy of any of those women.

A final reminder:  Ladies, be careful.  Noah/The T/Thomas/Tommy… a chameleon changes his colors, but not his nature.  I don’t care what his name is, if he’s love bombing you and he’s never met you, proceed with extreme caution.  If he really thinks you’re amazing, you “feel like home” to him, and he’s never met anyone like you, he’s going to be willing to hang tough while he earns your trust. We’re grown-ups now; we have to take care of ourselves and each other.  The Thomases of this world are the “bad guys doing bad things.”  And, in a dogfight with those “bad guys,” my money is on the smart, determined woman every. single. time.

And on that note, I close the book on Thomas Murray.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The End.

49 Comments

Filed under dating, internet dating, love, relationships, single mom, thomas murray

always was

One cold January day in 2009, I sat in my therapist’s office and numbly contemplated the options before me.  I could leave my then-husband and break up my family.  I could stay and we could attempt couples’ counseling.  Or I could stay, not do couples counseling, and agree with my husband that it was all just a mid-life crisis that we could simply put behind us and resume life as (mostly) normal.  “Given our specific problems and their origins and duration,” I asked my therapist, “approximately how long will we have to do couples therapy before there would likely be any significant changes to our dynamic?”

She paused, obviously choosing her words carefully.  “Weekly intensive therapy with a real desire on both your parts’ to make progress… approximately 2 years… give or take.”

I think I just stared calmly at her at first.  My ears were ringing, my heart was pounding, and there was voice in my head screaming at the top of her lungs: “NOOOOO!!!  No way can I do this for 2 more years!  No way.  No how.  I won’t make it.  I swear I can’t do!”

Ultimately, I shook my head determinedly.  “No,” I said firmly.  “I don’t have enough left.  I just can’t do it anymore.”

The trouble with difficult relationship dynamics is that what we fear most is that things will be how they always were.  He will be who he always was.  I will be who I always was.  Nothing will change. What always was, will always be.

Always was is a powerful idea.

As a college advertising student, I was fascinated by the piles of psychological and sociological studies that confirmed, over and over again, in study after study after study, that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  This applies as much to the way that we handle communication in a relationship as to the kind of toothpaste we buy.  We humans are amazingly predictable; at least from a scientific standpoint.  We are animals who fall into comfortable patterns that we cling to, even if those patterns no longer serve us.  Unlike other animals, who mostly have no psychological attachment to their pattern, we cling to ours, pulling in denial, projection, and blame to defend them.

Later, as a law student, I spent lots of time contemplating the various rules of evidence barring admission of most previous crimes and behaviors, unless they have a direct and immediate baring on the case at hand.  I sympathized with juries infuriated to learn, after issuing a Not Guilty verdict, that the defendant had been charged or convicted multiple times for similar or identical offenses.  Even some of our most poorly educated citizens know that “if he’s done it before, he’s more likely to do it again.”

But, of course, it’s not always true.  What always was does not have to always be.

I wrote a whole post not too long entitled “can people change?” and I am a firm believer in our human ability to arrest a behavior or pattern that we no longer like about ourselves and change it.  People overcome horrible childhoods, abusive relationship choices, and personal addictions everyday.  But the real tough part about change is when the pattern involves not just our own behavior, but our partner’s, as well.  That partner — and his behavior — is the uncontrolled variable in the equation.  As every successful rehab program knows, changing the addicted individual only gets you so far, if the people and influences around her remain toxic or undermine her attempts toward positive growth, she is most likely to fail in her attempts to affect real and substantial and lasting change.

Likewise, if the individual simply changes her surroundings, but not herself, the likelihood of repeating previous patterns is also high.  I think a good example of this is the woman who moves from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, always thinking that the next guy will be “different,” without ever examining her own role in those choices or that abusive dynamic.  The next guy might indeed be “different,” but if she is the same, the outcome might be eerily similar if not downright identical.

For most of us, these triggers and patterns are more nuanced than an addiction or an abusive relationship.  They manifest as small patterns in our relationships… the way we retreat or attack when hurt… how we approach conflict… what we expect in terms of attention or affection or affirmation…  how controlling or passive we are… the list goes on and on.

I recently had reason to consider my fear of what always was in the context of remarrying.  Since my divorce, I have sworn, without reservation, that I will not remarry.  Not because I am opposed to marriage as an institution, or because I don’t believe in commitment, or because of some feminist ideal, but because I came to fundamentally dislike who I was when I was married.  I see clearly the things I did wrong in my marriage, my contributions to its failing, and the woman I became during that time.  By the time I left my marriage, I didn’t really like her anymore.  She was scared and closed off and depressed and impatient and fatalistic about things.  She had sacrificed the best parts of herself to the altar of his criticisms and was left empty because of it, moving through a life that felt lonely and meaningless.  I don’t ever, ever, ever want to be that woman again.  But, I am afraid that what I always was then, is what I would always be the next time.

I watch with some degree of envy as other women assume that by trading out a mate, they are assured of creating a different outcome for their marital happiness.  I am not convinced that it is so easy.  True, the men I’ve dated since my divorce are almost complete opposites from my ex-husband in every way that matters, but that only accounts for half the equation, right?  What about me?  Have I changed enough to avoid all those old patterns?  Have I figured out alternative responses and behaviors for the triggers that made me so unhappy in my marriage?  Certainly a different partner will create a different environment and bring different trials and treasures to the table, but if I have not addressed my own dysfunctions, how will what always was no longer be?

And here’s what I realized:  I have done a ton of work on myself since my marriage ended.  I have no idea whether I would be the same person I used to be if I remarried, but if I’m really being honest with myself, I strongly doubt it. Not because of any particular partner I might someday share my life with, but because of me.  I have changed.  I’m no longer that woman I was and I can’t imagine letting her back in. Sure, I could hold onto that fear of what always was, and allow it choke away possibilities for my future, but that’s actually something that the old me would have done.  So freeing myself of that “always was” fear is yet another way to liberate myself from her influence. I have no idea if I’ll every marry again, but I guess it’s time to let go of that particular fear and acknowledge some of the progress I’ve made.  None of us gets any guarantees.  We can only do our best and keep trying to do better.

As for my ex-husband, we have now been separated for just over 3 years and he has been doing his own therapeutic work during that time.  He is also a different person than when we were married.  Could we be happily married to each other now, having both worked so hard on ourselves as individuals?  I don’t think so.  The fundamental differences in our personalities are still there and they grate in ways that are still so confounding and discouraging sometimes.  But we’re able to be pretty good friends to each other now, which might be all we ever should have been in the first place.  A few years ago, it was a friendship I might have wished for, but never really expected.

Yet another example that what always was doesn’t have to always be.

5 Comments

Filed under dating, divorce, happy endings, love, marriage, personal growth, relationships

thomas murray: a cautionary tale

I suppose I have known for nearly a year that this post was coming, but a part of me hoped not.  Then again, I suffered through Mike Boot-Camp, so I guess I know a cad and a charlatan when I encounter one now.  Anticipating the inevitable destructive outcome is just part of the territory…

Pull up a seat and grab a glass of wine.  This is a long one, and you’ll need both.

At the end of April 2011, when James and I were briefly broken up, a man known online only as “T” began commenting on my blog with some very provocative comments.  I noticed and was surprised.  At that point, to my knowledge, I didn’t have a single male follower.  His first comment is here, on a post I wrote on April 24th, entitled “how’s that workin’ for ya?”  I’d never read his blog or known of him prior to his first comment, but I promptly visited his blog and was oddly intrigued.  At first, I couldn’t figure out if his hyper-testosterone bluster (his blog was called “Morning Wood”) and blatant self-promotion were real or tongue-in-cheek.  Most of his commentators were women, and I noticed immediately how they fawned on him, fought for his attention, and flirtatiously bolstered his ample ego.  Obviously, that was a little off-putting, but I was  new to the blogging world and unsure what to make of it.  “T” and I began trading blog comments, and then I received my first email from him, on April 29, 2011:

You know…Darling, I would never do anything to offend you…it’s not my style.  What you think actually means something to me when most of the time, I don’t care about most  people’s opinions.  You seem to read me a bit too easily…the best part of that?  I enjoy it…

Since we’re not on the forum of comments, I want to know…what bothered you..and yes…complete honesty works here…I have my ideas of what could have done it, but I want it from you….

T.

Thus began an email and IM correspondence that lasted just over one week.  One tumultuous, heady, confusing week.  I became acquainted with “Thomas” and he attempted to romance me, to impress me, to lure me into his life.  All said, I received 57 emails from him, and sent nearly that many in return, along with 38 yahoo chats back and forth and 8 photos of him (all G-rated).  His attention was consistent and aggressive; his intent clear and unwavering:  he was looking for the love of his life and, just possibly, I was it.

His words were romantic and passionate:

…if nothing less, I’ve found someone who stimulates my thoughts and evokes the mystery of needing more to be revealed…  Intimate strangers reaching to start a solid foundation of friendship.  I put no limits on any opportunity I see…   To limit my conversations with you would be limiting who I think you are capable of being..and since I know so little but enough that I’m intrigued to put myself out there means I don’t take you lightly.  I NEVER put myself out there…however, where there is risk, there is reward.  I’m expecting nothing from you, however a woman like you seems more than interesting….I’m not a reader…  but I read everything that you have to say… it’s more than that, it is how you say it…  do I think you have your devilsh moments?  of course..as do I…but for now, the man who has everyting is looking for sanctuary…  the only way I will find it is to prepare for that moment when you see a fleeting opportunity that looks inconsequential and it becomes everything you ever wished for.  Those are the opportunities that I have always been able to see and what has delivered me.

But it wasn’t just his poetic words, it was the dashing life he had — an incredibly successful real estate developer and high-end financial consultant living the grand life in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Multiple properties scattered across the Caribbean and the U.S., and a chateau being built in rural France.  Luxury boats and a penchant for Hemingway-esque feats of daring.  A divorced father with a devoted group of friends and business colleagues.  A career so flexible and in-demand that he could move anywhere, and within days was assuring me that Colorado was not out of the question.  He seemed beyond perfect.  By the end of that week, he was persuading me to visit him in the Caribbean — to meet him in Puerto Rico for a long weekend of fun and romance.

And that’s when the little voice in my head kicked into gear.

I’m not going to reveal here what he did to slip up, as he might be reading and I hope he continues to make those mistakes, but slip up he did.  And the bells in my head went off.  I decided that a little background investigation was necessary, and within 5 minutes discovered that he was collecting women far and wide.  I wrote him an email, politely informing him that I wouldn’t be visiting him in Puerto Rico or anywhere else.  After a few terse exchanges, our short “relationship” ended.   I mentioned it on my blog here.  I didn’t hear from him again until August, 2011, when he sent me the following:

For all the sweet things you say…you should know…  you’re an unforgettable personality…sexy…and you effin wear it well….

I wanted you…and i wanted you in the most real way possible..

T.

By that time I was in love with James and had decided that Thomas’ self-aggrandizing ways were nauseating, but I wrote back kindly and sent him on his way with wishes for good luck.

That should have been in the end of the story.  But it wasn’t.  Not by a long shot.

You see, on the very same day in April that he first emailed me, he also contacted, for the first time, another blogger, named Jenni.  Jenni authors a wildly popular blog, and I actually discovered her thanks to Thomas.   After my contact with him ended, I kept an eye on her blog and on his… something in his manner toward her worried me a bit.  I knew that he was a sophisticated manipulator and that she was easily manipulated by men.  Bad combination.  But, to be honest, I held out some hope that perhaps he could rise to the occasion and be the man she needed, and that she could be the strong woman to finally corral him.  It seems ridiculous in hindsight, but I’ve never claimed to be anything less than a hopeless romantic about love…

Sure enough, in the fall, Thomas began pursuing Jenni relentlessly.  By December, he had convinced her to visit him in the Caribbean later in the winter.  Against his wishes, she blogged about it all, and I stood by, reading as she fell madly in love with a man I knew to be a conniving liar.  But, at that point, I really only knew the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Jenni went to Puerto Rico and spent four days with Thomas in early February.  Four days that vacillated wildly between utter bliss and utter nightmare, culminating with being drugged with a roofie on her last night there, and awakening bruised and battered and confused.   She has recently written about all the sad, sordid, heart-breaking details on her blog (if you’re interested, visit her there and read the posts about Puerto Rico and those immediately following).  After reading about her experience upon her return, I grew suspicious and began investigating Thomas more fully, as did a few other bloggers.  What we turned up was nothing less than shocking.

“Thomas” is Thomas Murray.  He does, indeed, live in St. Thomas, with his wife(!) and at least two children.  While Thomas was cavorting in Puerto Rico with Jenni, his wife was writing a charming and achingly innocent blog post about her gardening and subsequent rum cocktail (she has since pulled down her blog).  Thomas is not a successful financier and real estate developer, but just a guy who owns a small vacation condo rental block with his wife.  All those boats in the photos and stories of sailing?  That’s because he owns — or maybe just manages? —  a used boat company, and blogs about it here.  There is no chateau in France, no running with the bulls in Pamplona, no climbing mountains in New Zealand.  He is, however, a chronic womanizer — the hotel staff in Puerto Rico told Jenni he was a regular there.  Yes, Thomas Murray is a less-than-average man in nearly every way imaginable.

But in one way, Thomas Murray is extraordinary:  at the very least, Thomas is a sociopathic liar who preys on the feelings of vulnerable women.  At the worst, he is a sexual predator capable of drugging an innocent young woman who flew 4,000 miles in the hopes of finding her true love.

When Jenni returned from Puerto Rico, Thomas — most likely terrified that his house of cards was about to come crashing down — began threatening her, should she be tempted to reveal anything about him or write anything negative about him.  Jenni, still believing that the whole thing was a horrible misunderstanding and hoping that she could salvage something, was judicious in her treatment of him and circumspect in writing about their time together.  But then the emails started rolling in from women like me — women all over North America! — whom he’d romanced and invited to Puerto Rico.  And then, the clincher:  when I found his wife’s blog and confirmed — once and for all — that they were indeed still married.  Jenni used that blog to contact his wife and the two have since talked, sharing their joint misery and utter disbelief.   The whole sad debacle is incredibly painful; I get knots in my stomach just thinking about what those two women have been through, and what his wife still has to wrestle with.  I am not one to typically cast stones at a spouse who strays — no one knows another’s marriage unless they’re living it — but the depth and breadth of his lies and deceptions are what takes my breath away.  The number of unsuspecting women he has involved in his web is truly staggering.

And I also feel guilty.  In November, a mutual blogging friend asked me if I shouldn’t contact Jenni and try to dissuade her — after all, I had all the emails and IMs to show her — but I demurred, feeling that she wouldn’t believe me and would be certain that she was “different.”  Jenni has since confirmed my reading of where she was at that point, but it does little to assuage my sense that I had a suspicion that this man was more than a garden-variety cad… I did wonder what he was capable of.  But it was poor Jenni who had the bad luck to find out first-hand.

After Puerto Rico, I had warned Thomas, via comments on Jenni’s blog, that if he didn’t leave her alone, I would out him here with a hate blog to verbally castrate him beyond recognition.  I have his phone number,  I have his address, I have the names of his wife and children, I have lots of photos, I have all kinds of emails and IP addresses.  I was ready to post them all.

But I’m not going to.

Out of respect for his wife and the brutal pain she must be enduring now, I will not eradicate any measure of privacy she may have to deal with her current situation.  I do hope against hope that she does not allow the silver-tongued liar to slither out of his culpability, but that is her choice rather than mine.  All I can do, as a measure of sisterly solidarity, is to offer her some modicum of privacy. Hopefully, he will reap what he has sown without any further assistance on my part.  Leading Jenni to his wife’s blog was my contribution to his inevitable discovery, and will hopefully lead to some very serious therapeutic (if not criminal justice-based) intervention.

But I can’t stand the thought of his next victim.  You see, I feel certain that Thomas will lay low for a little while and then resurface — perhaps with a new persona.  I think he will entrap more women and ruin more dreams.  And that has literally cost me sleep over the last two weeks.

So, I am offering my very own little public service:  If you think that you or a friend is being wooed by Thomas Murray online or through a blog, email me — there’s an email button on my blog — and I will try to confirm or refute your suspicion, based on the information I currently have.  I absolutely despise the idea that Thomas Murray should ever, ever be successful again in ensnaring another wonderful woman. Don’t feel foolish — just ask.  Let’s help each other avoid the kind of man who ruins good and decent women for the more-deserving men out there who would treat them properly.  There is probably little I can do to stop him, I know, but I feel better making the offer.

I think the lessons here are obvious, but clearly worth stating again.  Ladies, if he seems too good to be true, he probably is.  And no man whom you haven’t met — no matter how much you’ve emailed or texted or talked on the phone — can possibly know that you’re amazing and wonderful and the woman of his dreams.  Real men who are grounded in reality and not lies do not talk like that.  Real men know that you might be interesting and special and lots of great things, but they have to meet you before they really know that.

One final thought.  My ex-husband has a lot of handy phrases, some of which make me crazy, but some of which are so accurate that I can’t deny them.  One of the latter is this:  “If you’re the only one saying it, then it probably isn’t true.”  So, when a man is so busy telling you what a Man he is and how giving and generous and smart and successful and romantic and loving and perfect he is — RUN!  That’s right, Run, Don’t Walk!  And find someone who waits for you to say it.  Because chances are, he’s none of those things.  And you don’t want to find that out the hard way…. like Jenni did.

81 Comments

Filed under dating, love, relationships, single mom, thomas murray

the year of the dragon

It is, I am told, the Chinese Year of the Dragon.  My Asian friends sigh when they tell me this. Sighing Asian friends do not set me at ease.

I don’t know much about the Chinese zodiac, but given that it’s been around for at least a couple thousand years, I suspect that they’ve ironed out a lot of the kinks and are probably onto something at this point….

Ling, my Korean friend, told me that the Year of the Dragon is something to get through rather than something to really celebrate. This is not what I wanted to hear.  Given that I rang out 2011 (the Year of the Rabbit) with a tearful and gut-wrenching end to my last relationship, I was rather hoping for a Year of Sunshine and Happiness.  Or a Year of Puppies and Kittens.  But it is apparently not to be.

Ling explained that the year of the Dragon is full of chaos and change and shifting.  In her imperfect, colorful English, she described it this way:

It’s like the dragon is breathing fire and burning everything down and everything is chaotic and unpredictable and scary and then afterward, everything start growing again, and you realize that it all feel clearer and healthier than before!

It would seem that Ling might be onto something with this scorched Earth theory of hers…

As she was talking, it dawned on me to ask Ling when the actual first day of the Chinese New Year was…  January 23, 2012.  Quick check on my phone confirmed it:  that was also the last day I spoke to James.  The day that I told him to go away finally and leave me alone.  I told Ling, and she beamed. “See?!  Chaos, then clearing out and healthy!”

Perfect.  So, apparently, this is to be my life between now and February 9, 2013, when we enter the Year of the Snake?

Awesome.

Because, seriously, I can’t think of anything I need more than a whole year full of days like January 23rd.  Really.  That’s, ummm, … perfect.

But, in fairness, I’m not in this boat alone, it would seem; no, the Chinese zodiac apparently did not single me out for this form of chaos torture.  I am watching the world around me and see people — friends, acquaintances, strangers — tossed about by shifting winds (some not metaphorical) and the vagaries of fate. I can’t even count anymore how many times in the last couple of weeks someone has uttered the phrase, “I just didn’t see this coming…” to me.   That damn Dragon is plenty busy….

When I hopefully asked Ling if there was anything I could do to avoid all the chaos and just get to the new growth stage, she cheerfully responded, “No!  Have to have the chaos to have the clearing!”

So, here’s to the Year of the Dragon, and all the apparent chaos it brings with it. My plan is to hang on tight and see what’s not charred or trampled or simply blown out of my life at the end of it.

But I’m still wondering when the Year of Puppies and Kittens is…  Anyone?

14 Comments

Filed under dating, general musings, relationships

worst. sex. ever.

I don’t usually kiss and tell.  Well, actually, I do kiss and tell, but I don’t usually have sex and tell.  Unless it’s bad.  And then I spill the beans.

A friend reminded me recently of the story of my worst sex ever.  It’s  a story that he remembers because… well… everyone who’s heard it remembers it.

First, let me be clear that a guy has to be an over-achiever to claim the title of worst sex I’ve ever had.  I’ve had a lot of sex.  Some of it was worthy of whatever the Oscar for porn is, and some of it was just plain bad.

Before my marriage, my award for worst sex ever belonged to a really nice guy with a really small penis.  Now, I’m honestly curious what kind of karmic debt he’d incurred to force him to go through this life with such a remarkably small penis, but it was truly so small that I didn’t even realize when intercourse had actually begun.  This dubious distinction won him the cruel nickname of “Phantom Dick” from one of my girl friends.  (And, I’m not a size snob; in fact, I am biologically constructed in such a way that a guy has to be pretty darn tiny to not satisfy my size criteria….) But, anyway, Phantom Dick was so nice and smart and sweet that I was relieved when our relationship fell apart for other reasons, so I wouldn’t have to suffer the guilt of breaking up with a guy simply because nature had played a mean joke on him.

Twenty years later I realized that there are far worse things than phantom dicks.

The lover who currently holds my worst sex ever title we’ll call John, because… well, because that’s his name.  I dated John not too long after my separation.  By the time John and I took our clothes off, he had had a crush on me for several months and had been angling for just such an opportunity.  So, the sexual tension was high and the anticipation was thick.

The foreplay wasn’t awful.  It was, however, what I like to call “Checklist Foreplay.”  (Every woman over the age of 30 is nodding her head right now and going “Ohhh…. bummer.”)  Checklist Foreplay, for you young women and male readers, is when a guy seems to move through the motions simply because he knows he’s supposed to.  It goes something like this:

  1. Kiss mouth.  Check.
  2. Kiss neck.  Check.
  3. Fondle breasts.  Check.
  4. Kiss breasts. Check.
  5. etc, etc.  You get the idea, right?

Here’s a good rule, guys:  If you don’t enjoy doing something, don’t do it.  Sure, we’d probably rather that you did, but doing it without any enthusiasm is worse than not doing it at all.  I don’t do things in bed that I don’t like to do.  (Okay, in fairness, I’m not sure what those things might be, but if I find one, I swear I’m not going to do it.)

John tried to be sweet, paying me compliments.  Some hit the mark — “You have the body of a 25-year-old!” — while others did not — “Nice boobies!”  Ahem.  Another good rule of thumb, guys:  When in bed with a woman, don’t ever, ever refer to her body part by a name that her sexually-repressed grandmother might have used.  Go for a porn-worthy reference, or stick with the clinical term.  But don’t call our parts by cutesy names.  It’s not sexy.  It’s just icky.  If you doubt me on this, imagine how you’d feel if we said to you, “You’ve got a great pee-pee.”  Seriously.  Just don’t do it.

After the toe-curling pleasure of our 5-minute foreplay (not), it was off to the races.  I felt certain that things would improve once we really got rolling.  After all, this was a good-looking guy whom I knew to have no trouble seducing women and more than enough notches in his bedpost to suggest the development of serious artistry in the sex department.  So maybe foreplay wasn’t his thing.  It was bound to get better, right?

Umm.  No.

Because there are hardly words for what happened next.  Basically, he moved his car into the space, and threw it into park. And there it sat, idling.

At first, I was confused.  I looked at his face.  His eyes were closed and he had the look of someone thinking hard about something.  Okay, I thought, maybe I just need to do some of the work here.  But that wasn’t even possible — he was nearly 6 feet tall and about 190 lbs.  I could barely move my arms, let alone my hips.  Not that it really mattered, because, as I was contemplating how to manipulate my body, he sighed and pulled out of the parking place.  Job completed.

Then he smiled at me and said lots of sweet things and I got the hell out of there as fast as I could.

On the drive home, I was not only sexually frustrated but absolutely flabbergasted.   I mulled over any and all explanations for what had just happened.  Perhaps he was drunk and having to struggle to keep the car running?  Or maybe he was just so overwhelmed at the opportunity to have sex with me that the engine got too revved up too quickly? (I liked this explanation, personally.)  Or maybe this was some Kama Sutra thing that I’d have appreciated if I’d ever been disciplined enough to read the book instead of only look at the pictures?

Well, because I am a glutton for punishment very nice person, I gave John a second chance and confirmed that, whatever the reason, this was his personal style of sex.  To his credit, the second time lasted slightly longer; long enough, in fact, for me to remember that I’d forgotten to take the chicken out of the freezer for the next night’s dinner.  Now, I’ve had sex that literally made me dizzy and nearly pass out, so if you’ve got me thinking about frozen chicken while you’re supposedly making love to me, our relationship is not long for this world.

So, before we go on, let’s review for our male audience what we’ve learned:

  1. No Checklist Foreplay.  Unless the checklist consists of “Ravish her body passionately,” it’s just uncool and a buzzkill.
  2. No cutesy names for our female parts.  Not unless you want us to turn you on with references to your “pee-pee” and your “bum-bum.”
  3. Friction — actually, movement generally  — is a necessary element for intercourse.   Whatever you do, don’t park the car before taking it around the block a few times, please.

As it turned out, there were ample reasons that John and I did not belong together that are far more important than his claim as my worst sex ever.  But he still holds the title.

And, if there is a God in heaven, he always will.

40 Comments

Filed under dating, relationships, sex

sucker punch

I took my labelmaker (yes, I’m the kind of mom who has a labelmaker) to work this morning so that our receptionist could label some things around the office.  But after only one label, it ran out of ribbon (yes, it was that kind of morning).

Arriving home late in evening after helping a work friend with an errand he needed to run, I headed to my craft box and began pawing through it, looking for the extra label ribbon that I knew was in there (yes, I’m the kind of mom who has extra label ribbon).   I couldn’t find it, so I took the box to the dining room table and dumped the contents across its surface.   Then, poking through the markers and paints and glues (aha!  I knew I had extra label ribbon!), my hand froze on a tube of paint, I felt the air sucked out of my lungs, and the memory washed over me….

It was Christmas Eve and I stood in front of James’s hearth, fingering the Christmas stockings hanging from the mantle.  Five identical stockings, plain and  unadorned.  I looked across the room at James and pointed to the stockings.  He crossed the room and explained that his ex-wife had taken all the stockings when she’d left.  “Well,” I said, “When Christmas is over, you need to let me take these and decorate them, personalize them.  This looks sad.  I’ll fix them up!”  He shrugged.  “Okay, sure.”

And so, in the days immediately after Christmas, still on a happiness high from my amazing holiday weekend, I went out and bought tubes of paints in Christmas colors, plus puffy white paint to mimic snow, and silver glittery paint to make them festive.  I found an old t-shirt and spread it on the dining room table and starting practicing all the letters in their names, drawing snow flakes and holly leaves, ornaments and gifts.  I was determined to make those stockings perfect.  When the kids arrived at their dad’s next Christmas, they’d find pretty stockings, decorated with love.

But I never decorated those stockings.  By the end of that week, my relationship with James was blown apart, all my hopes for shared holidays to come, dashed.

I don’t remember cleaning up the paints or the practice t-shirt.   I must have done it when I was still numb with pain.  I had forgotten about all those colorful tubes, about my silly plans, about my offer to James to help make things special for his children.

Until tonight.

It’s so unfair how life can sucker punch you.  There you are, moving along pretty much okay, trying to just put everything behind you, letting go of what you never really had, and WOOMPH!, a sucker punch from left field ushers in all the grief and loss all over again.

I wish that I had decorated those stockings.  I wish that those children had some tangible token of my love.  They would likely never realize, or probably care, who had decorated them or why, but I would know.  I would know that each Christmas, a little tiny piece of me would be there, loving on them still.

7 Comments

Filed under healing, love, parenthood, relationships, sadness, single mom

call me crazy

Go ahead.  Call me crazy.  It’s likely you won’t be the only one….

I spent last evening — Valentine’s Day — with Mr. Airplane.  And it was — much as I expected — perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

I’d never been to his home before but he wanted to cook for me.  When I arrived, he busied himself opening a bottle of my favorite wine, while I wandered through his home, admiring it.  He has a truly beautiful home, full of dark woods, rich textiles, and beautiful art.  Everything was tasteful and well-appointed, impressive for a divorced man who’d moved in with nearly nothing.  Over our wine, he presented me with a beautiful blooming pink cyclamen and a sweet but funny Valentine.  Then, after a toast, it was on to dinner:  seared tuna sashimi with sticky rice, homemade spring rolls, and garnishes of avocado and strawberries, along with an Asian-inspired side salad with orange sesame dressing.  And if the food hadn’t won me over, the presentation would have:

Now, I don’t know about you, but my cooking never looks like this, special occasion or not.  Once again, I have managed to find a man whose culinary skills far outpace my own.  But that’s okay, I’m supposed to be learning to let someone take care of me and be nice to me, right?

But I digress….

After a candlelit dinner and some nice conversation, we cleaned up the dishes together and then settled in front of the fire to watch a surprisingly endearing romantic comedy, share some more wine, and snuggle.  When the movie ended, it was getting late, but he walked me to his grand piano and played for me.  He is a classically-trained pianist who plays entirely by ear and improvisation.  I sat in awe as his fingers moved deftly over the keys, easing from them songs of his own composition, classical favorites, and contemporary pop songs that we sung along to.  With me yawning and still getting over my vicious cold, we decided to call it a night.  He walked me to my car, gave me a sweet kiss, and made me promise to text him when I got home safely.

Yes, it was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.

Let’s sum up, shall we?  Here is a man who is smart, successful, funny, friendly, confident, accomplished, emotionally-healthy, artistic, generous, attentive, kind, affectionate, and a good father.  He wants to bring me chicken soup when I’m sick, shovel my driveway when it snows, and fly me to another state for dinner sometime just because he can.   He’s tall and broad-shouldered and nice looking. And he likes me.  He really, really likes me.

So, sometime very soon, I need to figure out how to break up with him.

Because for all these wonderful things that he is, there is one wonderful thing he is not:  right for me.  Something is missing.  Some intangible nuance, some chemical attraction, some soul connection is not there.  It’s as if the universe created the perfect checklist of a man for me and forgot to include the heart connection.  I kiss him, and I feel nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  He touches me and, rather than press into him, I shift ever so slightly away.  When I hear from him, I am glad, but when I don’t, I don’t really notice.  I admire and respect and like him.  Under different circumstances, we could likely be great friends.  But right now, my heart and soul and body are not interested in anything more.  My brain would love to convince them otherwise, but they aren’t having it.  They’ve been fooled before and have some divorce papers to show for it.

So, because he really, really likes me, I have to break up with him.  He is a good man. A really good man.  He deserves a woman who tingles when he touches her and gets butterflies at the sound of his voice.  A woman who can’t wait to get his next text and share the rich and full life he has to offer.  He doesn’t deserve to fall in love with someone who will never truly love him back.  I’ve done that to men before and it was wrong.  And I’ve been in his shoes and it sucks even worse.

And so I have to break up with him.

Sigh.

Go ahead.  Call me crazy.  It’s likely you won’t be the only one….

103 Comments

Filed under dating, internet dating, love, relationships, single mom

the mother figure

I got home late from work, tossed the mail on the counter and was still taking off my coat as I grabbed the phone to pick up the messages indicated by the blinking red light.

When I heard the voice, I stopped.  Moving.  Breathing.  Thinking.

It was the sweet little voice of James’ 9-year-old daughter, Chelsea, calling from her mother’s home, across the country.  “Hi Miss _____,” she said softly.  “Or Bryn or Sabrina or whoever picks up this message.  It’s Chelsea, and I miss you so much.  I was just talking to my daddy and decided to call you and tell you how much I can’t wait to see you over Spring Break and the summer.  I wish I was in Colorado with you.  Call me back sometime soon.  I miss you.  Bye.”

By the time the voicemail clicked onto the next message, I was sitting on the floor of my foyer, coat half-on/half-off, with damp cheeks.  How I love those children of his…

Dating with kids is a dicey prospect at best.  In previous posts,  I have written about how much it hurt me to say goodbye to his children, and how upset my daughter Bryn was when I told her that James and I had broken up.  They are innocent passengers on our dating journeys, buffeted by the ups and downs of relationships they can’t begin to understand.

Just a short time ago, I was worrying about his three children as if they were my own.  Their mother is pretty chaotic and unstable, and unfortunately more interested in partying and drinking than in them.   The children don’t trust her or feel safe with her, and their reports of  physical and verbal abuse between her and her fiance had James racing to his attorney to evaluate his legal options.   They are smart, good kids caught in a difficult and sad situation.

My time with James’ children meant a lot to me, but I realize now that it was good for them, too.  In fact, I was probably one of the best things to happen to those kids in a long time.  Unlike their own mother, I know how to love completely and without conditions or manipulation.  Even when they pushed me away, I was steady and committed to them.  I cared for and about them without asking for anything in return.  I listened to them and supported them and showered them with affection.  And I offered a role model to the two little girls that they didn’t have anywhere else in their life.

And now I have to let them go.

James always said that the kids came first.  If that’s true, then the best thing he can do for those children is to create a safe, stable family for them.  I hope that he goes out and finds a good woman he can truly love who will love them and nurture them.  I hope that someday he models for them a healthy romantic relationship so that they will have some idea of what one looks like.  I hope that those precious girls have a woman in their life to guide them to their fullest potential, because they have so very much.  I hope that his son will have a mother figure who helps him understand that not all women will make him feel inadequate and helpless.

Is it too much to hope for?  Maybe.  But it’s all I can do now.

So, I picked myself up off the floor, shrugged off my coat, and sent a quick text to Chelsea letting her know that Bryn would call her over the weekend.   Then I said a silent prayer for all of them — that they be happy, healthy, and protected.

It’s all I can do.

6 Comments

Filed under dating, love, parenthood, relationships, sadness, single mom

the simplicity of first impressions

Saturday night at Annie’s New Year’s Eve party, I spent quite a bit of time conversing with a man I’ll call “Francisco.”  The following afternoon, Annie received an email from him that included a request for my contact information along with the following compliments, “I enjoyed talking with your friend, [insert my name here].  🙂 She’s bright, insightful, attractive, sensitive, and a caring mom.”

I was flattered by his kindness, but I am in no way in a position to offer him anything other than friendship.  And so friendship it is.

But after reading Francisco’s email to Annie, what struck me most was this:  right now, at this moment in time, I am precisely those five adjectives to Francisco.  Probably no more and no less.  In the realm of first impressions, his picture of me is comprised of that information alone.  Since our meeting, he may have subconsciously filled in some other details — perhaps he assumes that I like the same foods he does, or listen to the same music, or share the same political views.  Maybe he imagines me to be charitable or a dog-lover.  Or perhaps his brain has done none of those things and he is simply aware that he liked my smile.  Regardless, he knows basically nothing of me yet.  His complete experience of me was of a very pleasant conversation in a comfortable atmosphere.

So how long would it take for him to really know me?  How long before he discovered that I am kinda complicated?  How long before he realized that dating me is not for amateurs?  How long before those first impressions gave way to less favorable, more nuanced ideas?

First impressions are delicious in their simplicity. They tend to be single-dimensional and as much a reflection of the recipient’s frame of mind as of the giver’s actual nature.  I think, quite often, when we are predisposed to like someone, we come away with a positive impression of them.  It’s far less common, I think, to find ourselves drawn to someone we hadn’t expected to like.   For instance, I think Francisco came to Annie’s party with gentle and sincere aspirations of meeting someone special, and so, upon meeting me, was predisposed to find me all of things he has attributed to me.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s rather sweet.  But it’s also not necessarily real.

First impressions for me have always been kind of dicey.  Women either love me or hate me, almost on sight.  With men, I tend to make a strong and positive first impression, but not one  — I have come to realize — that is entirely accurate.  I assure you that I don’t actively seek to mislead anyone or conceal anything about myself…. it’s more that I think those parts of me that you meet first tend to be my best parts.  (I think that is true for many people, but certainly not all.  I have had friends who were notorious for making poor first impressions, including one male friend who was never successful with women — despite being handsome — until they got to know him.)

James never shared much about his first impression of me beyond saying that I “intrigued” him, but other men have and their impressions have been fairly consistent.  And often quite far off the mark.  They imagine me to be easy-going in relationships (ahem, not really) and so confident that I have no apparent insecurities whatsoever (!?!).  I’ve been consistently told that I come across as sublimely open and trusting (umm, guarded and naive is more like it) and that I seem to have an easy time developing intimacy with people (seriously, where do they get this shit?? This is true on some level, but certainly not as a rule).  All of these impressions are very nice and kindly-intended, but they are simply wrong.  And they set me up for a tumble off the pedestal that inevitably occurs if I actually open my heart to them at all.

The men who have weathered my pedestal tumble and still staked out a place in my life are die-hards.  They are the kind of men who are able to smile at my failings and love me through my neuroses. Maybe one of these days, I will fall in love with a die-hard who will consider the effort to be with me worth it, and the lasting impression more valuable than the initial one.

A girl can hope, can’t she?

9 Comments

Filed under dating, love, relationships, single mom