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.

 

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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.

Shavasana

It’s been more than six months since I last centered myself and made that crucial mind-body connection that my yoga practice provides, and the effects have been brutal.  The necessity to practice is something I have taken for granted, my thoughts being, yoga will always be there. And, in fact, it is always there, like a dear friend you can rely on. But for the past six months I have been so preoccupied with the stuff of life, I pushed that friend to the back of a drawer, making excuse after excuse not to pay it the attention it so deserves. I missed it terribly but have felt powerless to do anything about it.

Why I chose to re-enter my yoga practice tonight is unclear. I’ve been feeling pretty good these past few days. A welcome change from the darkness that has pervaded my mood for the past couple months. Nothing special happened tonight to prompt me to breathe and twist and focus – the house is quiet, the children are with their father. Dear Vector had errands to run and went home to his puppy. I chose to stay in and do some reading, some writing, some relaxing. I did none of those three things. Instead, I slumped on the couch, in a position that wreaks havoc on my back and shoulders, and watched horrible television. I played four games of spider solitaire on my phone and lazily leafed through a literary magazine about which I have to write a review that is due in three days.

When my puppy unfurled herself from her tight ball of sleep, slowly stepped off the couch, stretching deliciously, and whined to be let out into the yard, I realized I had warped myself into a crippled, hobbled form of an arthritic old woman. I struggled to get up from the couch, my muscles tight and my joints protesting.  I shuffled into the kitchen after Penny Lane who yawned a lovely puppy yawn – she’s exhausted; we went on a two-mile trot earlier today – then stretched again, butt high in the air, shoulders flexing and opening. It is such a natural movement for this graceful little animal, downward-facing dog, indeed. And she was so energized by the stretch. It is time to resume my yoga practice.

Technology almost got in the way of my progress this evening. I fiddled with my external CD drive on my Mac and the damn computer wouldn’t read my yoga CD. I almost allowed myself to feel defeat. I’ve been fighting defeat every day for the past two months – a crushing, hopeless feeling that wore me down and turned me sour. Kneeling before my Mac I clenched my jaw. I needed this to happen. Tonight. Before the momentum disappears. And I needed this yoga CD – it is one I purchased when I spent a weekend at an ashram last year for my 40th birthday. That weekend transformed me, truly. It wasn’t a momentary change, like when you hear a motivational speaker and walk away feeling like you can rule the world, but ultimately you don’t because the speaker didn’t give you any specific direction or guidance how, precisely, to start the process of ruling the world. He, or she, was simply really charismatic. My transformation was nothing like that. I participated in a workshop while I was at the ashram that helped me to examine moments in my life that were peak experiences. Moments of joy, peace, contentment, triumph – small snapshots such as when, last summer, I watched my children run down the sand towards the waves of the ocean, their shoulder blades poking out of their slim backs like the buds of tiny wings. That was a peak moment for me, seeing them running, fearless, into the ocean. In this workshop we captured these moments and identified the emotions they elicited. From there we listed the top five feelings we want to experience everyday and these became our emotional goals. When I am living mindfully, fully immersed in my yoga practice, I question my actions and reactions, I weigh my choices and ask if I am bringing myself towards or away from my emotional goals. This questioning and weighing required a conscious effort for the first few months after leaving the ashram, then it became a split-second awareness. I had practiced, within my yoga and meditation, how to meet my emotional goals.

I chose to play the CD through my stereo and practice my yoga. It would have been easy to snap my Mac closed and bitch about fucking computers and how they are supposed to make life easier, but they just complicate shit, and then return myself to the couch and bad TV. Very easy, indeed. Thankfully, the instinct to live mindfully and reach for my emotional goals was strong tonight. I popped the CD into stereo and engaged in a gentle, healing practice. I was so eager to practice, I didn’t even dig out my mat or change out of my pajamas.

The instructor on this CD facilitated the first session I participated in at the ashram. Her husband played the drums softly as she led us through an awakening practice and focused meditation. What I loved about her session the most was that she encouraged the practitioners not to place judgment on ourselves. She guided us into postures and coaxed us to move as deeply as we wished into the posture without judgment. Within certain postures, as we exhaled she invited us to say, “I release fear.” Upon inhalation, we breathed in presence in the moment.

It is not uncommon to see people become emotional during yoga practice. As I moved in and out of the postures and followed her gentle voice my emotions swelled. I allowed myself to cry in a room of strangers and accept the comfort and the safety of being in a space where there is, in fact, no judgment. It was precisely what I needed within that first hour at the ashram. From there, I saw how necessary it was  to turn 40 years of age in a safe place where it was accepted to be openly emotional during the release of fear and the intake of energy. To be amongst people who were growing and healing and who recognize the need to expunge pain and anger and the burdens we carry with us and silently provide support and empathy as we accept it. I didn’t feel embarrassed when the woman next to me paused from her practice and offered me a tissue. Nor did I feel shame when after the session another woman offered me a hug, and, upon accepting the embrace, I began to weep again. Shame and embarrassment plague me daily. It is within my yoga practice that I have learned to free myself of that pain.

My fluffy red winter socks slipped and skidded on the carpet in my living room as the calm voice lilted from the stereo. I laughed at the slip and pulled my socks off, digging my cold toes into the pile of the new carpet. I struggled to stay in Warrior I, my balance very off and my legs feeling weak. I accepted the change in my practice and didn’t judge. Yoga will be there for me tomorrow. I will allow myself to release my fear and live mindfully. My practice will restore my strength. I just need to get off the couch. And stay off.

Women…

“Women….

I am sitting here shaking my head, and that is the first (and really only) word that came to mind.  Where is this (topic) going?”

And it was with that reply that Awesome Navy Guy became not-so-Awesome anymore.

His demise came on the heels of a terrible writing slump that had been plaguing me for a couple of months. My thoughts were jumbled and my ideas were trite and cliché. I was frustrated, disheartened, and panicked as I was mere weeks away from the start of an intense MFA program in creative non-fiction. I had a few phrases ruminating in my head, but nothing cohesive. During yet another sleepless night, my thoughts became fixed on Awesome Navy Guy, and I wrote.  I produced 632 words. Some of the strings of thought were passable. Most were weak, in need of structure and loving attention.

I texted him early the next day to thank him for inspiring 632 words. He replied with thanks and that he was curious to see that he inspired…of course…who wouldn’t be? I sent the draft. He sent that reply. I was done with him.

During this brief courtship, my many-months-long ex-boyfriend/friend, Vector, and I were still deciding if we love, like, or hate each other. It was sticky and tense. It got to the point, several times, where I wanted to walk away and move on, but neither of us wanted to let go of the dense friendship we had built. We didn’t move anywhere and flailed miserably during the transition from lovers to friends, instead, morphing it into ‘flovers,’ which didn’t quite work. I was in this strange limbo. A weird place where I didn’t want to date anyone, but I also really wanted to date someone. And Vector and I just couldn’t get our shit straight. So on a whim, and with no expectations, I accepted the invitation to dinner from Awesome Navy Guy, who emailed me after an absence of about three months.

We walked away from that dinner date woozy and dreamy and smitten and longing for more, as good first dates are wont to affect a fledgling couple, gooey with promise and potential.

Yet, as awesome as Awesome Navy Guy truly was, he had one fatal flaw – his communication skills suck. We were matched through an online dating service In October. We communicated via the service sporadically – I assumed he wasn’t terribly interested, so I didn’t give the pursuit much effort. We exchanged a couple of apathetic emails off the site – questions about the other’s day, work, activities, nothing deep or meaningful. His replies would arrive not days, but weeks, and in one case, months later. Always with a reason and an apology attached. I didn’t think too much of it. I was curious to get to know him, yes, but it was as apathetic a feeling as the emails. Until we met – that’s when apathy took a back seat to a simmer. That date, on a humid June evening, lasted 6 hours. We ate, walked, talked, and kissed good night at 1:30 AM. I dreamily agreed to see him again.

Despite the woozy feel-good vibes, the pattern of communication unreliability remained. He would say he was going to call that night, and my phone would ring three days later. He would always text an apology and offer a reason as proof that his non-communicative ways were the effect of a series of unfortunate goings-on: a month-long cold, stress at work, a new phone, Navy Reserve weekend, so tired, last minute happy hour with friends… I kept in touch even though the simmer had cooled. I believed that his faulty communication patterns were the exception and not his usual MO.

We saw each other twice more. Both times he arrived late or changed plans last minute, yet he texted a reason…there was traffic, a big bug was in the shower. When he finally arrived, we functioned pleasantly enough. We enjoyed light conversations, were affable in each other’s company. It was easy. Then that email arrived. My response was veiled: “I don’t know where it is going. Probably nowhere.” The topic was dropped. I knew our fate, but I replied to his texts, curious if he’d explain or apologize.

Neither happened. We hadn’t seen each other in the month of July. Come August, my MFA residency began, rendering me pleasantly stressed. We vaguely made plans to see each other ‘soon.’ A week later, he said he would call; three days later he still hadn’t; I quickly sent him a text message breakup: It wasn’t working. Thanks for everything. Take care.

As for Vector and I, time spent together in July brought us closer. It’s a perfectly dysfunctional friendship punctuated with genuine caring, compatibility, challenge, reliability and rolling, laughter-ridden conversations. We are comfortable living in our present moments, enjoying the companionship and the warmth.

Last week, Vector surprised me with a new travel mug. He is very into high-tech gear, so I should have expected this travel mug to follow suit. It did. The space-age polymers of which the mug is constructed kept my coffee blistering hot. So much so that I almost choked when I took a long draught in front of my 9 AM composition class.  Vector never disappoints.

Which is precisely why I am so at ease with our dysfunctional friendship that sometimes slides into a dysfunctional relationship, but not quite because neither of us wants to admit that we are in a relationship. We staunchly cling to this as friendship. Which it is. And more. And it never disappoints.

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