You’re pretty. A Riff. | – BWright Group, Boutique Media & PR Firm

After a brief hiatus, I’m back to blogging for my favorite Richmond business!

What is it about being called pretty that causes some women (read: my girlfriend and me) to melt into irrational puddles of swoon?

Read more…You’re pretty. A Riff. | – BWright Group, Boutique Media & PR Firm, Richmond, VA.

 

Online Dating Led Me To Someone Unexpected — Myself

Huff Post Women

Online Dating Led Me To Someone Unexpected — Myself.

Molly Birnbaum | Cognoscenti / WBUR

 

I would love to agree whole heartedly with every word this darling woman has written. Oh, how I would! But some of us just aren’t as fortunate as others (read: her) in the realm of online dating…specifically, I’m the unfortunate one.

My second 3-month tour in the online dating scene just ended. As a result, I’m being treated for PTSD from exposure to rampant illiteracy and genuine stupidity. Since my first go-around with online dating was a smashing success – I met my best-est friend ever – I signed on for this tour earnestly enough. I really felt I was ready to “put myself out there,” and “open myself to love.” Three months later, and that whole putting and opening didn’t go so well. In fact, there was no putting or opening happening at all, as I didn’t attract a single date. Apparently, either I’m not young enough, my kids are too young, or my staunch, “no sex without monogamy” stance scared them off.  As a result I’ve become delightfully more cynical, jaded and, well, bitchy than ever. For some of those less-than-delightful attributes, I take responsibility. Classic defense mechanism. Blah, blah, blah…I’ve been hurt…he was a dick…all men are dicks now. You know the drill. But for the advancement of my cranky, borderline-curmudgeonly attitude, I blame those guys who were, well, dicks. To wit, the three suitors who began the wooing process with the, “How r u?” email.

Really, boys? You call that a panty-dropping opening line? Think, dear boys, of the message you are sending with this not-charming invitation to conversation.  I’ll give you a hint. It looks like this: “If he doesn’t have time to tap out four more letters, how am I to believe that he has time to build a relationship.” or “So. I’m not worthy of complete words from you? Great. Screw you.” Am I being picky? Overcritical? Maybe. But if they had simply typed, “are” and “you” this whole conversation wouldn’t have had to happen. Yes?

Quite frankly, I don’t buy into the crap that I could have thrown away Mr. Perfect over four letters. My Mr. Perfect can spell. That ends that argument. And my Mr. Perfect is willing to demonstrate his command of basic English grammar. Now that’s damn sexy. Show me your grammar, baby. Oh, yeah. Say, “participle phrase” for me…

I digress. Clearly.

So what have I learned from this second tour in the online dating trenches? What’s my big takeaway other than having the misfortune to interact with cretins? It is this – I am comfortable with my alone-ness. My compulsions to re-up for another online dating tour have been sated because I have opened myself up to a different kind of love. It’s no longer necessary for me to seek comfort, reassurance, and support from a romantic partner. I have been reaching out to my friends for that. Like so many people, I had a difficult time asking for help from my friends. I’ve relied on the man in my life for help (obvious reason why so many have run screaming from me). In the absence of a romantic relationship, however, I have had to ask my friends for help. I had to make myself vulnerable to the people who have been closest to me. I know that sounds counter-intuitive. After all, aren’t we supposed to be vulnerable around our friends? That’s what they’re there for, right? Well, yes…but I held back and instead took on the role of the one who would be there for them, who would always be strong and have her shit together when their shit was falling apart. I was the classic caretaker. And I still am, but, not as much. The past year-and-a-half has been a series of baby steps to taking care of myself by slowly asking my friends if I could lean on them for a while.

And they didn’t disappoint. True friends never disappoint.

This doesn’t mean I’ve devoted myself to a life to spinster-hood. I do miss the trappings of a romantic relationship – having someone reach for my hand when walking side-by-side. Seeing someone smile when I walk into a room. – but now I feel comfortable allowing love to happen organically (you know, the old-fashioned way) rather than making it happen electronically.

And as an added bonus to eschewing electronic love, I no longer have to suffer the soul-crushing disappointment of seeing that 347 guys checked out my profile, and stopped there.

Not gonna miss that one bit.

Frogs

Early, rainy spring brings me into my small backyard garden. It’s a frustrating little place – there are areas where the flowers are flourishing. Green leaves are speckled with buds or supporting vibrant blooms. Then there are the areas that are barren. Dirt and half-decomposed mulch and weeds mix with dog pee. I obsess over those areas.

Every time I walk down my garden path, I look at the empty spaces. I bend slightly and squint, hoping to see a glimmer of growth. Hoping that the smattering of green is more than another weed. I make mental notes to buy more bulbs, seeds, and plants to fill those barren spaces.

I pay little attention to the areas that are thriving. Even among my herb garden, I tend to discount the strong plants as a result of something out of my control. The soil is better; the plant is established; the sun shines brighter there. I pay too much attention to the emptiness, to the damaged areas, to the destructive weeds.

And then there’s my lawn. Bumpy and half-overgrown; the other half patchy with muddy, weedy areas that scream, “You suck at this!” I sit on my deck stairs, glass of wine or cup of coffee in my hands, staring at my angry lawn and my mangy garden and feel utterly paralyzed to do a damn thing about it except dwell on the emptiness and the damage.

To say these are dark days would be utterly melodramatic. They aren’t happy days…but they aren’t completely horrible. I’m grieving, and that is something I don’t do gracefully.  I’ve had months of heartache – one frog that didn’t turn into a prince, no matter how much I kissed or fucked him, after another. Six, to be precise. Six suitors who pursued me hotly, insisted they wanted to build a future with me, then stopped communicating with me. No more emails, texts gone ignored, calls not returned. Poof, they disappeared leaving me to beat myself to a pulp for not being thin enough, witty enough, tall enough, rich enough, pretty enough, smart enough…for simply being not good enough.  Or for being too much – too eccentric, too emotional, too busy, too compulsive or quirky.

Cognitively, I know none of that is true…I’ll be good enough to the right frog-prince.  But emotionally, I’m as muddy and bare as those patches I obsess over in my lawn and garden. All I can do is drink – coffee in the morning, wine in the afternoon – and feel paralyzed. Which is ridiculous, I know. But that’s what this sort of paralysis does.  It reduces me.

I’m a relationship girl. I like being in a relationship even though I have proven time and again that I am sufficiently inept at creating healthy, romantic partnerships. I need that label, that safety and security of knowing he is ‘mine’ and I am ‘his’. The rest will work itself out. Let’s skip Courting and jump right to Relationship. Then we can court without the anxiety and insecurity. At least I wouldn’t have anxiety and insecurity. He would have increased anxiety because what he had gotten himself into was sinking in. The thrill was fading, the gild coming off the lily. All the while, I stood clueless in my happy, dreamy world of denial and fantasy.

When I muster the strength and make the time, I go into my garden and yank out the weeds, their roots desperately clinging to clumps of soil. I shake the excess, still useful, soil back into the garden and discard the weed. I pull out my rake and till the bare patches of grass to a fluffy loam, creating a welcome environment for seeds. The dark sky is going to handle the job of watering the freshly-groomed gardens and lawn. Back on my deck stairs, bottle of water in my hand, I am satisfied with the effort. The sweat mixed with soil has formed a paste on my face, hands and legs. A long, hot shower is in my immediate future. Right after I admire the hard work I have done in my yard.

It’s Food, Not Love

I fired my seamstress seven months ago. She closed her dry cleaning shop early, without warning, the day before New Year’s Eve, thus holding my fabulous NYE 2011 party dress captive. This sent me screeching to Nordstrom, shell-shocked kids in tow, to find a new dress for the party. It wasn’t just the one dress this one time; although she does beautiful tailoring at a reasonable price, she is terrible at meeting deadlines. Promised dates for pick up were often pushed back again and again. I was generously discounted for my patience. But my patience wore thin on December 30th. On January third, I turned in my last ticket, collected my tailoring and dry cleaning, and left her.

Her absence didn’t have much of an impact on me until now. As part of my back-to-school ritual, I try on my ‘grown-up’ clothes, after months of lounging in t-shirts, tank tops, bathing suits and tattered shorts, to get a feel for what needs to be replaced, altered, augmented, donated or dry cleaned. This year, I am feeling her absence as my son is feeling the absence of his newly lost tooth.  This year, all my pants are too tight. I need to have the trousers she so lovingly altered in, let out.

Last year was a wonderful year. After making many difficult and necessary changes within myself, I realized the woman I am outside a marriage – independent, resilient, confident. My children and I grew closer as a result of my spiritual connection to myself, and my acknowledgement of the need to nurture myself. I did yoga frequently. I meditated. I dated, had my heart broken, recovered and learned from rather than resented the breakage.

I was happy, and as a reflection, I lost weight…35 pounds. It slipped off my body as my unhappiness slipped away from memory. I brought armfuls of clothes to my seamstress, who exclaimed, “These clothes! They are too big! Why did you get them so big?” I laughed and explained that they used to fit me, snugly. I couldn’t stop grinning. I was now a slip of a woman at 125 pounds, size 4-6.

The weight loss also put me in the holy graces of my doctors. My blood sugar levels had dropped and stabilized, which meant I could stay off insulin and continue to treat my Type I Diabetes with medication.  Delicately, for several years, my endocrinologist had been mentioning that if I lost a few pounds, I’d see an improvement in my HgA1C’s. He knew I was exercising aggressively, and that I was frustrated. But he had to do his job. When he saw me, six months later and 35 pounds lighter, he was both pleased at my accomplishment and visibly relieved that the awkward ‘weight speech’ could be skipped.

Due to sudden, nearly unbearable stress, more weight fell off – fifteen pounds in two months’ time. I looked gaunt. It wasn’t a healthy loss.  Then I began to get sick – a three-week flu, followed immediately by a cold that lasted a month. Pneumonia. Bronchitis. A sinus infection. I spent about six months sick. My weight had bottomed out at 110 pounds; I was too thin. My internist determined that a healthy weight range for me is 120-125 and told me to get there as quickly and safely (read: no junk food) as possible. I followed doctor’s orders and gained weight. Ten pounds slathered on my ass and waist easily. Too easily. 5 more pounds followed. Then seven more. Now, I am fluctuating by 8-12 pounds over my ideal weight; This has smacked my emotions back to some dark days when my five-foot frame carried 160 pounds, and everything I owned fit my gelatinous body tightly.

Those 12 pounds got here through something more powerful than laziness or gluttony. They are here because of a need for comfort. I eat to comfort myself. Technically, it’s called emotional eating. I call it weakness. The frustration emotional eating causes pushes me into a depression. So I eat to combat the sadness. And I gain weight. And my blood sugar levels rise. So I get scared and even more depressed. So I eat more and move less because depression staples my thighs to the couch and tunes into “Toddlers and Tiaras” which renders me incapable of switching off the TV to do yoga or Pilates. It’s a painful, vicious cycle to be in and to watch. My friends and family are afraid to say anything when they see me reaching for a second or third helping at dinner. They know it will shame me if they comment, and I’ll eat more to comfort myself out of feeling shamed. Which will frustrate me. And around it goes.

This summer was unusual. It didn’t have the gentle ebb and flow my summers at the Jersey shore usually enjoy. My parents and I shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. We chose words carefully or avoided them altogether lest the wrong word were to tap a hole in the flimsy walls keeping the sadness in.

My brother and his family moved across the country in July. We have never been this far apart. The life we had known has been cut short, altered. It’s different and sad. My dad has been in terrible pain from aggressive osteoarthritis in his ankle. He can’t walk very well. Mom has been keeping everyone calm and happy and organized. She has run herself ragged getting my brother and his family packed and moved while taking care of my father. This is her role in the family, but it’s taking its toll on her.  I had my own angst. The beginning of my MFA writer’s residency program was approaching frighteningly fast. I was battling my self-esteem demons, and losing.  There were other woes as well…financial, social, negotiations with the ex. These changes, emotions and insecurities rendered me sleepless and sent me to the refrigerator on late-night snacking binges, bringing me to my current quandary.

While I miss the smaller sizes and loose-fitting trousers, it’s the decline of my health that tortures me when I see the 130’s stare at me from the digital readout of my scale. I can’t feel the Diabetes killing me, but I know it is. And I know how I got here. When I’m away from the scale, my tight pants are an uncomfortable reminder that I failed myself. Again. I have learned to identify the difference between emotional hunger and stomach hunger. I have yet to learn how to deny my emotional hunger. Or how to satisfy that hunger – the yearning.  Each day I whisper to myself, “today you will stop yourself.” But, like the addict too soon out of a twelve-step program, I relapse.  And I start over.

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