Tag Archives: dating

Same as It Ever Was, Sorta

I FaceTime with my 87-year-old mom nearly every Friday night. Pretty cool, right? Lately she’s been telling more stories from the past, some she hasn’t told me before. What struck me about some recent stories is how, at the core, they are similar to what people experience today, only back then there were a lot fewer resources to help.

Take job hunting. My mother talked about how hard it was for her to find a job in her early 20s. Sound familiar? It was the early 1950’s, so the economy was fine. Yes, she was a woman, so that was a strike against her. But she wasn’t looking for a career, she was just looking for a job. She was turned down at a little general store in town because she had the same last name as a cousin who’d been fired from the store for doing something bad. My mom wasn’t sure what. There were easily 20 or more cousins in town with the same last name, so that seems somewhat short-sighted, judging a whole family based on one bad apple. The fact that there was a high probability that there was more than one bad apple in that bunch is inconvenient to my story, and therefore irrelevant.

Also, it’s ironic because if they had bothered to get past my mom’s last name, they would have learned she had recently left the convent. What more validation of an honest person can you find? And, no, she wasn’t discharged because of rosary grand larceny or embezzlement of the priests’ sundry fund.

Of course, it was the convent thing that was really messing up her search. At that time there weren’t too many career counselors and coaches to help. Heck, there weren’t even resumes. Just my mom filling out applications and trying to explain where she’d been in the past several years. You’d think that the nun gig would have been a more common thing back then, especially in a town where there was a Catholic church for each of the town’s immigrant groups — St. Stanislaus, St. Anthony, St. Anne — you get the picture. But apparently employers found it just as weird as they probably would today. But today she’d have an army of online and in-person career coaches and websites telling her to emphasize her loyalty, passion, and commitment to her work. And how about “excellent ability to take direction”? She left the convent because she got very sick from the physically demanding chores of hand-washing priest vestments, praying for hours, sleeping very little, and Oliver Twist-like food. The first time she got sick, she returned home to recover and then went back. The second time she got sick, the Mother Superior told her it was a sign she was meant to do something else. She would have stayed if they had let her, so I think you could add “ability to follow through.”

She finally landed a job in the office of a car dealership, but then there were other male shenanigans to contend with. Here’s hoping the starts to change, 60 years later.

The convent thing of course followed her into the dating scene, but the few dates she told me about seemed a lot like the letters I read in a daily relationship column. There was the guy who took her out once, but when she was kind of clueless about the goodnight kiss thing, she never heard from him again. She connected with another guy on the 1950s version of eHarmony — a Catholic pen pal club. That helped make the ex-nun thing less of an issue. They wrote a number of letters back and forth and my mom got excited and thought things were going really well — until he told her he found someone. At least he didn’t ghost her.

So all as a way of saying, sometimes I like to think I  have it harder than others. But, I really don’t. Not only can I learn from those who came before me, I can Google “ex-nun resume tips” and “how to give a kiss.” And that’s pretty cool.

 

Cheeto Has Even Ruined Dating

So, I thought Republicans liked small government and to stay out of people’s lives, but maybe that only applies to rich white men or white women who look like Kellyanne Conway. All the rest of us got Cheeto flea and the Republicans peeking into our windows, trying to wrestle away our health care, and tweeting at us 24/7. To add insult to injury, Cheeto flea has even managed to make dating more chaotic than it already is. I am a frequent peruser of and an infrequent responder to the Craigslist dating ads. It’s really more entertainment than an actual dating site, but it doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t require understanding what swiping left or right means. Which really sounds more like a Mr. Clean ad than dating, but what do I know?

Anywho, there amongst the earnest souls looking very specifically for big women, fit and athletic women, or women open to “everything,” whatever that might mean, I saw an ad by a very sane-sounding, intelligent guy. We exchanged a couple of emails and seemed like we had enough in common to meet. About 5 minutes after agreeing on a day, time, and place, he emailed me back to say he had Googled me and found my website. He sort of apologized for doing it, but I’m a big fan of Googling strangers, so that didn’t bother me in the least.

But what he next said floored me. He read a lot of my posts (points for not making assumptions after 1 or 2 blogs), he said I was a really good writer (double points for stating the obvious), and that he also feared we disagreed on a number of issues that would make us incompatible. I’m pretty sure he was not talking about the blog I wrote against skinny suits. Even worse was I had asked him what made him interesting, and he said he always tries to do the right thing. So, here he was, actually doing the right thing by telling me we were not compatible in the most straightforward, respectful way.

According to my friends who date, this is unusual. Like unicorn unusual. Many people in that situation would have just stopped responding or stood me up. To quote Liz Lemon, “Blurgh.” No, wait, even more worse was he was so respectful and articulate about it, he made me rethink my attitude towards Cheeto supporters. So there was already a moment of introspection and growth with this person, and I hadn’t even met him yet. Double blurgh.

Would this have happened before Cheeto? Maybe, but I’m pretty sure I would have at least gotten a decent first date out of it, and it might not even be a deal breaker if we had enough other things in common. OK, who am I kidding, I could never seriously date a Republican. But I could totally have dinner and a make-out session, which would hold me over until the next unusual post by a sane-sounding, intelligent guy. But now, you can’t even get to first base without knowing someone’s political leanings. Fighting racism, sexism, and orangeism is really stressful enough and now there’s this.

But like everything else Cheeto flea has done in the past 73 days (only 1,387 left!), it only makes me more determined to carry on the fight: for social justice, health and reproductive rights, the environment, and our inalienable right to date.

It’s Nothing Personal

So here I am four years post-separation and marriage. During the summer I amused myself by getting reacquainted with girlie things—dresses, shoes, and those whatchamacallits…oh, yeah, accessories. I couldn’t quite pull off sexy, but I got and had a lot of laughs. Summer slipped into autumn and winter is nearly upon us, and even though the girlie dresses are getting cold, I still want to wear them. Out. Somewhere. With sincere apologies to Keats, I now find myself slouching towards dating Bethlehem. I’m still not interested in actual dating, but I’m interested in the idea of thinking about maybe seeing what might be out there. Makes me a perfect catch, don’t you think? I am the consummate researcher and thinker, which, for your information is absolutely very different from a procrastinator. I’m a writer, I know the nuances of language better than you.

In any event, I realized I’m in a good position to evaluate the personals. What do they look like compared to when I answered my ex’s personal ad in the Boston Phoenix, Boston’s alternative weekly newspaper, more than 25 years ago? Of course the internet and apps have intervened in the interim, but I limited my research to just personals because 1) I’m too lazy to actually create a dating profile on a site like Match.com, 2) I’m still scarred by my friends’ stories about how brutal and dishonest these dating sites are and 3) I’m not quite ready for an app like Adult Friend Finder—no explanation needed for that I think, except to emphasize that the technology allows you to meet someone RIGHT NOW. No judgment and call me old fashioned, but I just like to get a drink or two and dinner first.

So where to go? Craigslist personals, that ubiquitous, democratic, free internet space that provokes pretty much the same response from people as the Boston Phoenix personals did 25 years ago. Mild shock quickly followed by admonitions to be careful of all the murderers on there. The similarity was downright heartwarming. So far so good! I plunged on with my research, and here, dear reader, is my take on personals then and now:

The Phoenix had the regular personals and a section where sex was a main feature. I believe it was hip enough to also have the basic categories for gays and straights. Craigslist has nine sections and within in them, evidence of the wonder of human variation and preference. Since I’m kind of boring, I stuck with two, “casual encounters” and the “men seeking women.”

All I remember from the Phoenix was that the personals pretty much sounded all the same. The guys liked dinners, movies, and walks on the beach, which was pretty useless—what kind of food? What kind of movies? My ex’s ad actually had specifics, which made him stand out. Now? Holy acronym Batman! LTR, BBW, HWP. Within minutes I was Googling “Craigslist acronyms”: long-term relationship, big beautiful or black woman, height-weight proportional. And that’s when things really got interesting. At one point I forgot I was looking to see if there was anyone I maybe wanted to think about contacting because the specificity is fascinating. This ain’t no dinner and movies crowd.

First there are all the attributes. Ladies, if you get discouraged about all the ways the media reinforces ridiculous standards of beauty, just go to Craigslist—fair warning you are going to see more pictures of men’s junk than a porn site and the fetishes are rampant, but once you get past that, you will find guys looking for BBW, bubble butts, big breasts, small breasts, requests that a woman have a little meat on them. Tall women, petite women, single mothers, HWP, geeky women, tiny waists with big hips. Something called “thick” which even the guides can’t agree on. I thought it was maybe somewhere between HWP and BBW, but then I saw a picture of a “thick” example, and I thought she was actually HWP, so what do I know? I guess the poster will know it when he sees it. Of course there are the straight out requests for being hot looking and thin/athletic. But there are not as many as you would think, and the guys claim to be the same. And that has been going on since Adam was hoping for a hot babe who was an independent thinker and had healthy eating habits.

When men do make very specific or even wacky requests, they often apologize for it and explain they don’t mean to offend, it’s just what they prefer, which I found kind of touching. Sure they may have gotten flamed by some pissed off women or they are simply savvy marketers. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s a nice touch.

The details included in the personals turned out to be my downfall. I stopped looking for myself and got lost in my writer’s curiosity. I tend to be attracted to guys who make me laugh, and so don’t really have a type. How do people get such specific types? For example what is it about a bubble butt that gets you going? Honestly, thank goodness they included a picture, because I wasn’t even sure what that was. Of course the pictures, clearly of real people, got me started on a whole other line of thought. Where are these people now? Do they know they are a Craigslist poster girl for a ______ (fill in the blank). Then I think how many women actually respond? How many of a type can there be?

Which of course brings it around back to me. I’m happy for all the women out there whose type is being called out and worshipped (a lot of guys promise to worship these various parts). But then that means I have the opposite, but equally annoying problem of 25 years ago when the ads were too vague. Then it was OK, we both like movies, but what if I like “Equalizer” and you like “Her”? Now I have to figure out where my body fits into the acronyms. I can knock out the extremes—I’m proudly not fit or athletic. Which is just as well because the guys who ask for a fit or athletic woman always list their hobbies as hiking, running and all manner of exercise—ugh. I tend to gravitate to the guys who talk about food and wine. Also, I’m not a BBW or a bubble butt. My breasts have never been big, and thanks to my recent weight loss, they have actually gotten slightly smaller (you really can’t win sometimes). I have big hips, but my waist ain’t anywhere near tiny. It actually was a while before I encountered HWP, which shows you how many requests there are for just a regular gal—not many. I guess they are all on Match.com.

Once I could tear myself away from these fascinating guys and their requests and I decided I was HWP, I started lurking among this small number of ads. I could eliminate at least 75% of the guys off the bat. They are in their thirties or younger, and I’m not quite ready to be a cougar (although that is not an infrequent request).  Of the remaining men, there are the people who are looking for love and long-term, while others are uncomfortably honest (married seeking same). A few are just liars/too creepy if true. One guy claimed to be very successful and was looking for someone to travel with him on his boat and winter in Florida. Um, I was just looking for dinner, wine, a few laughs, and home by midnight, thanks! And that leaves me about one possibility every few weeks. And even at that point the general rule of Craigslist is that half the time, people will flake out on you and not show up.

So through very careful, research, combing through pages of original documents, I have come to a very scientific conclusion about dating today versus 25 years ago. It ain’t any easier, whether you are looking for an LTR, an Adult Friend, or just looking for dinner, wine and a few laughs. But at least if you have been hiding your Craigslist lurking habit, you can tell people you only know about it because you read it here. You’re welcome. The girlie dresses can wait until spring.

Photo credit: Glamour.com, “Here Are a Few Not-So-Solid Dating Tips From the 1930s”

Blanche Says, Let It Ride Girl

During a particular low time during the divorce process, I got hooked on reading a relationship advice column online. There’s something validating in reading about other people’s relationship issues. It also let loose my inner, cigarette-smoking, world-weary vamp named Blanche. I just rolled my eyes at the 20-something writer who declared the person who just dumped him was the One and what should he do now? But Blanch took a long drag on her cigarette and exhaled a pointed stream of smoke at the advice seeker’s post. “No such thing as the ‘One,’ sweetheart,” she declared in her gin-soaked voice of gravel.

Another advice seeker claimed everything in the relationship was perfect, except she wanted a child and the partner didn’t. Could the partner be won over? I thought not, but stayed quiet to be polite. Blanche, however, tapped the worn wood of the bar twice next to her empty shot glass, watched the bartender fill it up with Gordon’s, tipped it back and slammed down the glass. “Not gonna happen. Put up or get the hell out.”

The ill-fated office romances and those contemplating divorce after a few years of marriage when a new “soul mate” appeared on the horizon got nothing more than Blanche’s derisive snort.

It was a pretty fun game for me and Blanche until the law of averages started to catch up to us. You read enough of these letters and sooner or later you’ll get to situations that are uncomfortably close to home: midlife folks asking about the rules of dating in the world of Facebook and texting. When to introduce the kids. And yea gods, trying to decide on divorce number two! Being solitary by nature and still processing my marriage and divorce, I have no interest in dating or finding another partner. But if I’ve learned nothing else during a 20-year marriage and subsequent divorce, it’s never say never. My guilty pleasure at making fun of the advice seekers transformed into an uncomfortable dread of having to face this situation at some point, no matter how unlikely. Then I would be one of the letter writers: “I finally got an interesting email on Match.com, what do I do now? Help!”

Blanche will flick her dangling cigarette ashes at me, before raising her shot glass. “Get back on the damn horse, girl, and let it ride.”

photo credit: Fooyoh.com

You Should Be Dancing

Last year, a good friend who was single at the time invited me to a GLBT breast cancer fundraiser dance. She invited another good friend of mine, also single, who she had recently gotten to know better — I was in heaven — a night out with my two favorite dancers. We are now well into midlife, but back in the day, I’d gotten to know them separately and had spent many happy hours dancing with each of them when we were still young enough to pull off a night out that starts at 11 pm. Still, we sounded like the beginning of a bad joke — a lesbian, a gay man, and a straight woman go to a lesbian dance…but what was the punch line?

Oddly enough, it was “I’m getting divorced.” We three share the same sense of humor and we use it liberally to get us through the indignities and unfairness of life. So we riffed off one another all night. As L and M recounted their bad dates and online dating photo and profile exaggerations, I contributed “I’m getting divorced.” I don’t know why it was funny, but it was — we weren’t even drinking (that much). M lamented that many men his age had gone to seed, and L countered with the observation that many lesbians our age are either partnered or live in the suburbs. Again I added “I’m getting divorced.” And again we laughed, perhaps at the absurdity of it all, of finding ourselves in a place we’d never intended to be and the opposite of what we’d hoped for at this stage of our lives. And we’d discovered the galling truth is that it’s just as awkward and difficult to be unpartnered now as it was when we were 20. Maybe we thought age and wisdom would make it easier, but that’s turned out be a bunch of midlife propaganda. Instead, we turned to the wisdom of our 20-year-old selves, and danced away the hurt with heart and soul. By the end of the night, the long scarf I’d brought as a dance prop had both coiled and floated playfully around L and M and had steadied M as he gracefully came out of a back bend on the dance floor. It was glorious.

We came, we laughed, we danced, and for one night it didn’t matter that M had pretty much chatted up every single woman there and we still hadn’t found L a viable date. It didn’t matter that I had a mountain of divorce paperwork to sift through at home. It didn’t matter that neither L nor M had gotten messages from their respective love interest. I was getting divorced, and while we danced, it just didn’t matter. 

photo credit: http://www.smouseproductions.com/