Saturday, August 27, 2016

SWF Seeks Miracle

Forty-something year old (OK, basically 50), divorced mother of two seeks 40-50-something year old divorced/widowed (how is that somehow now a credential?) man for long-term relationship.

How is it that I am still doing this? Again? And again and again? And how is it that my criteria for a relationship has been beaten down by disappointment to simply "a 40-50 something year old divorced/widowed man"?

This should not even be a thing at my age. I'm a beyond-middle-aged woman trying to do something that I wasn't even good at in my 20s when I was supposed to be doing it. I sucked at it then; I suck at it now. I'm exhausted, disappointed, and oh, so jaded.

I've gone back and forth trying to figure out why I haven't been in a relationship since 2013 or so - and that one was dysfunctional at best. And full disclosure here: I know I have had a tendency to spook like a wild horse if someone expresses TOO much interest in me too soon. That was a self-confidence thing on my part - kind of a "Oh, you just wait until you meet the real me, there, Big Guy. You've only just met my representative."

I'm better with that now, and maybe that's my demise. I've gone from morphing into whatever they seem to want to like to just keeping it real. I mean, I'm not going to curse like a sailor and tell my deepest, darkest issues on a first date, but I'm also not going to try to pretend I'm somebody I'm not. If I can present an authentic me on the first date and you dig it  - and I dig you back? We might be on to something then.

But that situation is rare. What I'm finding these days is that men are  - dare I say it - timid. Ambiguous. Wishy-washy. And I get it. Ninety percent of them "out there" are divorced, and if I believe everything they say, divorced from a "crazy bitch who did them wrong". They're "scared" to get into another relationship. They're "not sure" about this dating thing and how it all works.

But I get the sense that there's another thing they're thinking that they're not saying. It's the "I don't want to commit to you because what if someone better comes along" mentality. And I get this, too. You've been married. Tied down. In a relationship that toward the end had seen better days. You're in no hurry to settle down with one woman when there's a plethora of possibilities out there.

But I'll tell you now - there are and there aren't. Unless the answer to the question, "What kind of woman are you looking for" is "The kind with two legs and big boobs that loves sex and a lot of it", you have some standards. And if dating women is anything like dating men, you're going to find that over the course of time, those standards drop a bit, because you just aren't finding anyone that ticks off all your boxes.

And it's fine not to settle. I'm obviously not settling. But good LORD, I don't think my expectations are THAT high. What I want: An intelligent, kind, humorous guy. What I don't want: An idiot. A schmuck. An asshole. Someone who is mean to waitresses. Someone who doesn't introduce me to whomever he's talking to. Someone who doesn't mention the words "ball gag" on a first date (THIS HAPPENED). Someone who doesn't talk constantly about his ex or reply to one of her crazy text rants during our date (THIS HAPPENED TOO). Someone who, if he had a good time and thinks he would like to see me again, says, "I had a good time and I'd like to see you again." And someone who will call or text on a regular basis - not go radio silent for two days then text, "Hey".

Hey? Really? WTF?

Please - tell me if I'm asking for too much. I really, truly need to know. But if I am, then maybe I just need to throw in the towel and start getting more cats, because I may just stay single forever.

I just wish we could all get over ourselves and stop this crazy dance we do when we go out with someone. It's even gotten to the point where we don't call it a "date". It's "hanging out". "Grabbing a drink". GOD FORBID we call it a date, because that's commitment. If we call it "hanging out", we can date two, three, even ten times and not say we're dating. If it goes sour, no big deal. We were just "hanging out".

Have you seen that commercial - I can't remember what it's for - that says something like, "Ever wonder what would happen if we said what we're really thinking on dates?" It's brilliant. I want a date where we agree to do that all night. Seriously, it would be so much easier and less painful in the long run.

I know, I know. You had your heart broken. We ALL did. You don't want to get hurt again. None of us do. But at this rate, we're all going to rot away in our single houses with our 10 cats if someone doesn't take a leap of faith.
While it's easy to sit here and write about all the things that were not "relationship-worthy" of the men I've entertained (because I can't even really call it dating), once I exhaust that list, I always come back to, "But what's wrong with ME?" Because maybe that's it. I don't know. I've looked long and hard at myself over the past few years, and I'm pretty brutally honest with myself about my shortcomings. I've been told I'm unapproachable. Not affectionate enough. Intimidating. I've also been told I'm hilarious. Beautiful. Even sexy (that makes me giggle). So I'm in this constant battle with myself: Did I act unapproachable? Should I put my hand on his knee? What if that's intimidating? Am I coming off as flippant?How do I know if he likes me? How does he know I like him? There's no way he could think I'm beautiful with this hair. You think I'm sexy? We are going to have to do this with the lights off.

Those of you who are happily married I'm sure will comment, "I'm so glad I'm not dating anymore." And you should be. But don't comment that to me, please. I'll never get over the feeling of failure of being a "divorcee". I'd love nothing more than to be like you, getting ready to celebrate my 20th or 25th anniversary. But I'm not. I'm still out there. And I honestly didn't ever think it would take this long or be this hard. And the older I get, the tougher it gets. The more lines I have, the more the weight shifts, the more set in my ways I get.

I'm starting to think I need to come to terms with being OK with the single life for the rest of my life, as much as I really don't think I want that. But right now, I'm not even thinking that far. I'd just like to find someone who wants to date me - and will tell me so.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Day of the Next Four Years of His Life, Take Two

On August 17th, 2011, my oldest son embarked upon his four-year journey through high school. On that day, I wrote what I wished I could have told him (
First Day of the Next Four Years of His Life) but didn’t dare due to the whole teenage angst thing he had going on.

Some of what I wrote I may have mentioned to him as I nervously tried to prepare him for what I could not prepare him for. However, no one could have possibly braced me for what those four years would bring – and that’s an understatement. My advice then seemed so normal, but what we experienced during that time was anything but.

So here I am – exactly five years later – same date, same high school, same nerves, different kid. At first I thought to myself, "My advice is the same – there’s no reason to write another post on this". But as I re-read that blog, I realized, no, it’s not the same. While my mainstream suggestions are still valid (keep your schedule in your pocket, don’t freak out if you forget your locker combination, respect your teachers, etc.) they’re not what first comes to mind now that I have my second and final child entering those precarious high school years. 

Why? Couple of reasons. One, he’s a different kid. Thankfully, I’ve been able to keep the “Mom’s a complete idiot and I’d rather eat dirt than be seen with her” scenario at bay longer than I did with my first son, so I can talk to him about some of these things. Two, I learned too late that while I had the best of intentions, I tried too hard to save my son from every mistake or consequence or hurtful situation he might encounter. And in doing that, I did him a huge disservice.

With that said, my words of wisdom come not only from me, but from both of my sons: one speaking from first-hand experience; the other vicariously through his older brother. And while these nuggets may not be as “common” and “sharable” as my post five years ago, I can tell you right now it’s all pretty damn good advice.

From my youngest son: 

“I’m going to have to choose my friends carefully.”

My youngest wasn’t immune to the changes his brother went through during his high school years, his struggles or his revolving door of “friends”. In his mind, these were the people who took his big brother away from him piece by piece, dragging him down into a life that ended up making high school a living hell for all of us. My youngest doesn’t want that for himself (or for me), and is pretty good at seeing the forest for the trees.

We’ve talked about choosing the friends who don’t make you feel bad, or pressured, or nervous about doing something that doesn’t make you feel right. We’ve talked about friends who use you, and that true friends shouldn’t make you feel like you have to make a decision that goes against that feeling in your gut. I never thought I’d be a little thankful for my son’s anxiety, but if nothing else, I hope it’s that emotion that helps keeps the bad influences away, as well as keeps him from being a bad influence, which I would be hard pressed to believe he would be.

From my oldest:

“As long as he’s involved in a sport, he’ll be OK.”

I wish I would have asked for a further explanation of this statement from my oldest, who begrudgingly completed a season of tennis before settling on a couple of weeks of working lights and sound for the school play as his completion of my rule that “You must join SOMETHING”. Perhaps it’s the nature of the school: it’s somewhat affluent (we are not), with a high participation rate in sports and extracurricular activities. Those who choose not to participate in either kind of fall into that “other” category you might remember from your high school days. And in a school like that, it’s a dangerous place to be.

The good thing is, my youngest started track three years ago. I saw he was good and enjoyed it, and I have “encouraged” him a bit harder than I may have with my first, for just this reason. It’s not that I want him to be a track star. I want him to be INVOLVED. I want him to feel a part of a team, and a community of other students. I want him held accountable for his grades. I want him randomly drug tested (as they do the athletes). I want him busy. I want him healthy. I want him as far away from the “other” category as I can get him, and I make no apologies for that.

And finally, from me, more of a wish than a piece of advice for the next four years:

“Know you can talk to me.”

I don’t know why some kids push their parents away and others keep them close. I don’t know why some child/parent relationships are adversarial and others less so. Perhaps it has to do with the makeup of the child as well as the experience of the parent. 
I learned more than I ever wanted to learn during those four years with my oldest, but my experiences I feel made me a better listener versus advice-giver with my youngest. I try to ask him what he thinks he should do; not tell him what I think he should do. I am painfully aware that trying to shield and save him from every disappointment and crisis is only doing a disservice to the development of his coping skills he’ll need later in life.

Doesn't matter if he sees me.
My oldest knows I'm there.
I told my oldest he could always talk to me, and I meant it, but my desire to give him answers to questions he should figure out for himself, coupled with his oppositional nature, rarely made this possible. My youngest and I have some pretty amazing conversations, and at 15, I’m constantly impressed at the questions he asks and the topics he brings up. Will that continue into high school? I can only hope. Whereas now, I can feel the butterflies in my stomach as I struggle to find something non-confrontational to talk to my oldest about, I pray that my youngest and I can have as trusting of a relationship as a mother and her teenage boy can have.

Now I’m not naïve enough to think that he’s going to tell me everything – not by a long shot. I guess what I mean by “talk to me” is, “Don’t not talk to me because you don’t think I’ll understand, or that I’ll yell at you, or judge you.” I’ve come a long way and if he’s willing to keep me in the loop and open up to me, I’m willing to trust him which will translate into more privileges and freedoms that his older brother didn’t earn.

Despite my best intentions and most fervent prayers, my oldest son’s high school experience was downright brutal. The other night, he gave his brother some “advice” on how to get through those four years. Suffice it to say, it was more of a strategy on “how to get in and out with the least possible effort” as opposed to “how to get the most out of the next four years”.  And though certain aspects of high school are the same as they were 30+ years ago, I’m hesitant to dole out advice to him like I know what the hell I’m talking about today. But there is one thing that still holds true from five years ago; something that will never, ever change as long as I am living and breathing:

I will be there.

Not to fix things. Not to “save” you. Not to enable you. But to just be there.

When the girl says “yes” to your invitation to the dance, I will be there to help pick out your suit and her corsage.

When a girl breaks your heart and you just want to cry, I will be there with apple pie and a horror movie to help get your mind off of her.

When you and your friends need a place to hang out after the football game, I will be there with a comfy basement and plenty of snacks.

When you feel pressured by friends to do something you know you shouldn’t do, I will be there as your excuse to leave.

When you get an “A” on that project you worked for weeks on, I will be there waving a college catalog.

When you bomb that test that lowers your grade a full letter, I will be there, probably with a set of flash cards or something.

When you win that race with a personal best, I will be there screaming your name at the finish line.

When you lose and feel like quitting, I will be there to remind you that you run because you love it, not because you win.
I'm right behind ya, kid.

The rest is the same – and I’m able to copy it (nearly) verbatim from that blog five years ago:

"I will be there. And I think you know that. I am hoping that these next four years will be some of the best years of your life. These will be the years you will learn - both academically, socially and emotionally. You will have amazing ups and horrible downs. You may fall in love. You may experience heartbreak. You may find the friends who will be your friends for the rest of your life. You may discover your passion and realize that it's what you want to do as a career. You may discover yourself - at least a little bit. And through it all, I will be there, walking 50 paces or so back, but there just the same."

Happy first day of freshman year, my son of the Class of 2020.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tales of the Bad News Mom

I wasn’t really prepared for this.

Not that I was prepared for ANY of it. As I’ve said numerous time, I never thought I’d get married, let alone have kids. So my learning curve in both of those areas might have been “curvier” than most.

That said, I’d like to think I kind of rocked the whole mom thing, as best I could rock it, anyway, given my general maternal ignorance, lack of rocking my marriage and a plethora of my own issues that seemed to make being what I wanted to be that much more difficult.

It was kind of like I was the Bad News Bears of mothering. You know, the baseball team made up of total misfits with good intentions but absolutely no idea what they’re doing who come together in the end and win the big game? Yeah, that’s me, except we’re like in the gazillionth inning and I am not seeing a W in sight.

That said, I’m kind of at that stage where I’m wondering if all that training and conditioning and sacrifice all those years was really worth it? To take the analogy one step further: If the Bad News Bears did everything they could and STILL lost the game, would everything they did really even matter?

Now I know your first instinct is to say, “Of course!” if nothing else just to make me feel better. But I’m honestly not sure. Now, I don’t say this to play the martyr card at ALL, and if I had it to do all over again, I would have done a good portion of it the same way. BUT, looking back, I really, really stressed about what I did and didn’t do for my kids and around my kids. I took them into consideration in pretty much every move I made. For instance:

— I want them to have a head start in kindergarten so we’re going to work on colors and shapes and numbers beforehand.
— I refuse to use the TV as a babysitter so I’m going to limit their screen time.
— I need to make sure any serious adult discussions don’t take place around them so they aren’t privy to things that are too old for their young minds to comprehend.
— I need to feed them nutritious food so they’re healthy (and so I don’t have to completely lie when we go to the pediatrician and he asks how many servings of fruit and veggies they get each day).
— I  need to go to church and step up my God game because I want them to know Him.
— I will read to them every night as long as they want me to, and maybe even longer.
— I’ll find a job with a flexible schedule because their dad doesn’t have a normal schedule and I want to make sure someone is always there for them after school and at all their sporting  and school events.
— I will be the mom that will always say “yes” to shooting some baskets, throwing the football or fishing.
— I will have “the talk” with them even though it’s totally uncomfortable and I’m not sure it’s a mom thing to do but I can’t NOT have the talk with them.
— I will not talk badly about their dad in front of them and I will encourage their relationship with them, even if it means us all spending every Christmas morning together because that’s how they like it.
— I’ll make sure they are gentlemen by insisting they open the door for someone and always look people in the eye and say please and thank you to the waitresses.
— I’ll talk to them about girls and how the nice guy doesn’t finish last and being a gentleman is far better than being a showoff.
— I’m certainly not going to introduce them to anyone I date unless we are serious, and if for some reason they don’t like him or get along with his kids, I will choose my kids over him.
— I'm going to make them aware of the importance of doing well in school, learning good study habits and staying motivated.
— They will volunteer because once they’re 16 and can get a paying job, they’ll have something to put on their resume and be way ahead of all the other 16 year olds.
— I’ll be frugal with my money and teach them to shop sales and that just because you want something doesn’t mean you can get it right now – or sometimes ever.
— If they are ever in a position where someone is trying to pressure them into doing something they know they shouldn’t do, they are more than welcome to use their “hardass mom” as an excuse.
— I will make sure they know they can talk to me about anything – that if they don’t know where else to turn, even though I’m “Mom”, that I will be there for them.
— I will make sure they know that they are loved, and that they are fortunate.

I look back on this not-even-exhaustive list and think, “Well, I tried all these things, that’s for sure.” How successful was I? In some areas, pretty good. In a lot of areas, not very.

But this is what I have spent the past 19 years stressing over, and here I am, 19 years later, and it’s virtually done.

It’s over.

There’s no more to teach.

Sure, mothering is never over. I know that. I needed my mom even when she lay in that hospice bed taking her last breaths. I need her even more now. My kids may not think they need me right now, but hopefully the older they get, the more they’ll feel comfortable with the fact that when all else fails, they can still come to mom.

But all the stuff I tried to do right – to raise them to be kind, productive, good people - that part’s pretty much over. And I have two questions.

1. While I feel like I was successful in a few areas, why do I feel like I failed in so many others, and
2. What the hell do I do now?

I hadn’t anticipated the immense amount of time and energy that parenting would take. I had NO idea what was entailed when I brought my firstborn home from the hospital and looked at him with complete bewilderment. I used to tell people, “If being a mother was an actual job, I would have quit a long time ago.”  I mean, that shit is TOUGH.

Maybe in time my feelings about failure will change. Sure, I could have been a much worse parent. Considering I was completely pulling the whole motherhood thing out of my ass on a daily basis, I think I did as well as I could have with what I had to work with. But I don’t think that was good enough.

And now, here I am, 19 years later, wondering what to do next. It’s kind of like working for CAT for 20 years then suddenly getting laid off. You may have known it was coming, but you just weren’t prepared to wake up one morning and not have that job to go to. And you may even be hesitant to try for a new job, because you just spent SO much time at the last one and look what happened. So you stay at home and binge watch Netflix shows and clean your house a lot and wonder what everyone else in your shoes is doing (my shoes being: single, not a ton of money, and still half-mothering a teenager, but even he’s one foot out of the nest.)

I suppose I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I selfishly wonder what my kids think of me as a mother (and yes, I realize that at this point, they really don't think anything...). Since my oldest has moved out, he doesn’t contact me very often, if ever. If I contact him, It’s usually met with a sign or rushed conversation. And yes, I recall being his age and my mom insisting I call once a week from college. I rolled my eyes, yet I never missed that call – because even I knew I needed her, and talking to her kind of centered me. It was like there was not only one person in this world who knew what was going on with my life, it was one person who actually cared.

I hope they know I care about their lives. I hope they still need me, even if they think right now they don’t. I hope they know that I tried to do the best I could. That I really did give my all and then some for them. Now I have to turn the tables a little and give that all back to myself, which I haven’t done for a long, long time, and I’m not sure what to do or where to go to even find any of it.

In a way, I kind of feel like the right fielder. I played on a softball team when I was a kid, and I sucked. Bigtime. Like, every-time-I-got-up-to-bat-the-dugout-would-groan sucked. So of course they stuck me in right field, where I’d be safe from any action. That’s kind of where I'm at now. I used to be in the game, but I’m kind of past my prime now, so I’ve been put out to pasture in right field. And apparently it’s up to me to make the call that this game is no longer my “thing” and find another sport.  

I wonder if the Average Joes need another player?