Turning the Page . . .

I slept with the Turk last month. Oops, I stand corrected. There was no sleeping involved. Nor standing, for that matter. It was, in fact, sitting. Specifically, on a wooden bench in the basement of his restaurant. Surrounded by shrink-wrapped cases of bottled water. I apologize if the visual is startling. Btw, the water was sparkling. Not that it matters. What matters is that it happened. And the irony is fluid. Not literally, as in the sense that several hundred bottles of Switzerland’s finest Mineral Wasser should bear bubbly witness to the end of my 8 ½ month dry spell. But rather cosmically, as in the sense that the man to open the flood gate was the same man who undammed my previous lsdd (longest sexual drought to date). Lasting 14 months and occurring 5 years ago, that prior stint of extended celibacy started when my 35-year marriage ended. The clock on this more recent spell started ticking in January, which is the last time I saw the mechanic known as Sunday. While regular readers may be familiar with both men, others of you may be a bit lost. Again, it doesn’t matter. The point of this post is not the particulars of my sex life—either past or present. But rather a candid discussion of turning a necessary page in the healing and moving forward chapter that follows a relationship breakup.

Be it a long-term marriage or a failed dating relationship, the betrayal of love can feel like the end of love (and sex) forever. But, as cliché as it sounds, time does heal even a broken heart. The problem is the progress can be infinitesimal and the setbacks so great, that we feel frozen in place. Wallowing in depression and sadness at worst. And bitterly resigned to a celibate and solitary life at best. The question of whether we will ever trust again is huge and universal, regardless of age. As are the doubts we can even find love. But for older women there’s an added wrinkle (no pun intended). Many of us of the 50+ demographic dance with the devil called “age.” We see the bastard in the mirror and feel it in our bodies. Because of “age,” society no longer sees us as sexual beings. And we wonder ourselves if we still are. Is our time past? (But maybe that’s just me?) Regardless, I freely admit the fear. That I may have been laid for the last time looms large in my list of regrets and losses.

Women in their 30s and 40s may think I am exaggerating. Of a different sexual generation and simply not yet on the post side of menopause, neither can they truly relate. But believe me when I say I have read enough Facebook posts and comments in 50+ women’s groups to know whereof I speak. Among recently divorced older women the doubts and fears are especially real if they have not yet dipped their toe in the dating pool. (Btw, good luck. Since today’s is less a pool than a stagnant swamp of perverts, losers and cast-offs. But maybe, too, that’s just me?) The mere idea of a different sexual partner can be almost impossible to fathom for the woman who married her first lover. The woman faithfully married for decades doesn’t fare much better. Trust me, if only one man (besides your gyno) has seen you naked in 30 plus years, the thought of baring it all to a new one is not easy. And if, for whatever reason, marital sex was infrequent, unpleasant, unsatisfying or just plain lousy—then the ole adage “what you don’t use, you lose” seems more than a pending probability. But that’s not all that builds our doubt and feeds our fear.

Aside from menopausal changes that effect libido (and lubrication), there are self-image issues. Let’s be real . . . at the half century mark, the sands of time ain’t all that’s sifting, shifting and falling! In added insult to injury (as if looking in the mirror weren’t demoralizing enough!) men our own age are seemingly oblivious (or blind) to their own face-off with Father Time. The fuckers click age preference boxes decades younger without compunction—and because of their fiscal allure (Make no mistake, boys . . . the wad the young-uns are after is in your back pocket not your front!)—with galling success. Here’s a fun (not) fact: Based upon a survey of one of the larger “older” online dating sites, men between 60-69 prefer to date 11 years younger. My own analysis during my Match.com debacle (chronicled in my humor book*) puts the average preference of American men over 50 at 13 years younger. Ipso facto, ergo and hence, the challenge of being a single “mature” woman looking for a partner is not for the faint of heart. But it’s a chapter in life we can’t skip. No matter how much we’d like to.

And speaking of chapters we would like to skip . . . let’s return to the point of this post. There are few chapters in life more difficult to get through than the loss of love. It is hard and long and slow reading. It’s tempting just to close the damn book and call it a day. But like the memes say, if you do that, you will never know what the next chapter has in store for you. And there is always much more to the book than the page you’re stuck on. Speaking of stuck . . . I have made no secret of my own struggle getting over the guy who got over me. Reading my posts in order of publication are like a timeline of where I was in the process. Only now, at the 9 month marker since his disappearance, do I feel as though I am moving into a new phase, taking the next step, turning that metaphorical page . . .

Here’s my situation and state of mind (and hoo-hah) in a nutshell . . . At 63, I feel as if there is a Doomsday Clock ticking off the final minutes until total vaginal atrophy. Since the breakup with Sunday, I have had zero interest. My libido died with the relationship. I despise the fact he has had that power over me — to kill off my sex drive. But the truth is, he did. Until last month on a layover (no pun intended ) in Zurich . . .

Readers of I Still Want Fireworks* may recall my then 38-year-old Swiss connection from 5 years ago. Bearded, with black hair past his shoulders, he looked like a Spartan warrior from the movie 300. In reality he was a Kurdish immigrant from Turkey. Regardless, the sexual attraction was instant. But I was terrified. The 20-year age difference was daunting enough. To make it worse, when we met, it had been 14 months since I’d been touched by a man (and prior it had been 10 years of 2-3 times a year in a marriage that had deteriorated to one-sided interest [his] and dry obligation [mine].) To say I didn’t believe I even had a sex drive would be an understatement. In fact, I told my sister that I didn’t think it even worked anymore. The Turk proved otherwise.

But as a born-again Christian, he seesawed between guilt and desire. I likened our 9-month involvement to a constant contest between the saint and the seductress. Though I won every battle, he ultimately won the war. Our friendship became platonic. Then, when American Airlines stopped their Philly-Zurich routes in 2015, it ended totally.

Fast forward 4 years, during which I entered into the now ended, nearly 3-year involvement with the Mechanic called Sunday. (The fact it was the best sex of my life, has doubtlessly played a major role in my current state of disinterest-induced celibacy.) But as luck–or fate–or the fucking Universe and its twisted sense of humor and propensity to return to the past would have it, in April American resumed its flights to Zurich from Philadelphia. I have actually worked the flight several times. But we no longer stay in the same little village outside the city, and taking the train just to stop by his restaurant to say hello seemed pointless. Although I came to have genuine feelings of affection for him, I never looked upon the relationship as a long lasting one. Moreover, it was over. As they say . . . been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and donated it to Goodwill. I saw no reason to revisit the past. The Universe thought otherwise. And then provided a cosmic nudge in the form of a still valid til that evening train pass proffered to me by an outbound crew member. A $15 savings and (unlike my previous trips) the weather was perfect–neither blustery cold nor humid hot . . . why not?

Again, the how it happened doesn’t matter. Though I must once more commend the Universe on its sense of irony. Truly, a presentation of sheer perfection! That in the interim passed, the Saint has become less saintly and the seductress less seducing. In a total role reversal, I was the reluctant one. For all the reasons detailed in the paragraphs above, I was hesitant—and yes, once again downright fearful it didn’t even work anymore. I was also haunted by the memory of my one-time (ok, two-time) encounter with a former FWB during the mechanic’s first disappearance at the relationship’s one-year mark (yes, call me stupid—or at the very least, a slow learner!). That mistake had inspired the whole sex vs intimacy realization. (Not to mention a video***, two posts** and the nicknames “Ragu” and “Sunday.”)

Make no mistake, I was tempted. (At least to try.) And in the end, I just couldn’t come up with a good reason to say no—aside from a very misplaced and fucked up sense of fidelity to Sunday and loyalty to the memory of a relationship that had truly for all intents and purposes died 16 months ago. (Yeah, like I said, sloooooow learner . . .) Call the culprits “Curiosity”—could I? “Surprise”—I actually felt nonalcohol-induced sexual desire for the first time in over 3 years for a man not nicknamed Sunday. And “Familiarity”—with our shared past, I was physically and emotionally comfortable with the Turk. Better, there was mutual affection. Best of all, chemistry–the sparks absent with Ragu and oh, so overwhelming and overpowering with Sunday. (Yes. In spite of everything that has happened, I still want fireworks. They should probably inscribe it on my tombstone. A fitting epithet, no doubt . . . She never learned. She never changed. Until the very end, she still wanted fireworks . . .) In this end, in Switzerland, they equaled desire–strong enough to prompt me to turn the necessary page–just as I had done five years prior. Yes, the Universe loves a good laugh—and who can argue with a definitive sense of synergy at work?

So . . . page turned and chapter finished . . . and the $64,000/ elephant in the room question . . . Am I completely over Sunday? No. As hard as that is to admit–and I wish it were otherwise. (I really do.) But in time, I know it will happen. As for the Turk . . . sparks and fireworks aside, I have no burning desire to see him again. If the Universe wills it . . . so be it. But I have neither plans nor want to make it happen.

If life is a book, then my encounter with the Turk was a page turned in this long and tedious chapter of healing. Starting anew at 63 is very different than moving past my divorce at 58. It is harder. Much harder. And if Facebook posts and comments are any measure, I am not alone in what I am experiencing. It is a common occurrence, that the first real relationship after divorce is more painful to get over than the divorce was. But whether divorce or relationship, learning how to be single–and totally alone–after a breakup is not easy. I won’t lie. As much as I love my independence, I hate now always sleeping alone. I miss what I had with Sunday, both the sex and the intimacy. Whether the future holds either for me again is unknown. Pages and chapters yet to be read . . . and so I’ll keep reading and turning the pages. And maybe . . . just maybe I’ll again flip back to that page . . . the one whose corner the Universe saw cause to crimp down.

Funny, that none of the memes offer that option . . .

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But why else? Seriously? If not to go back for quick and easy–and future–reference, why bookmark a page already read? And that ladies, is clearly another $64,000/elephant in the room question . . . and the topic for another post . . .

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*The Readers’ Favorite 2017 Bronze Medal Winner for Best Humor, and recipient of a dozen 5-star reviews, I Still Want Fireworks, chronicles my 6-month misadventure with online dating. It is available on amazon.com in both paperback ($9.99) and Kindle ($3.99) formats. It is FREE with Kindle Unlimited membership.

** Readers not familiar with the back story may want to check out the following. Anthologies of previously published posts no longer available on the blog for viewing, each book in the Best of sucks series centers around a common theme. All are available on amazon.com in either paperback ($5.99) or Kindle ($2.99) format.

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“Sex vs Intimacy” (Part 1 and Conclusion) appears in Men, Sex & Intimacy. An abridged version appears in Fact is Stranger Than Fiction.

***My first (and so far only foray) into vlogging may be viewed on Youtube. I think the link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXvYOnGHLT8. Just google youtube and judith hill and sex vs intimacy, it should pop up.

Ironically, (Fuck you, Universe!) I recorded it 6 months following Sunday’s first disappearance. Ergo the references to a stint of celibacy and the same fears I am facing once again. A few weeks later he reappeared. The relationship then progressed to his “I love you” declaration, before he once again vanished. To say it’s not embarrassing as hell to view myself 2 years ago in the same damn place as I stand now is an understatement. (Talk about the past recycling!) Even “Rob” (aka Ragu) reappeared a couple weeks ago. We went out for dinner last week, but this time I knew better than to sleep with him. No fireworks is no fireworks. I don’t know if that can be called actual progress, but I’m putting it the fucking “Lessons Learned” column regardless.

Lessons Learned from a Five-year-old

I often write about life’s lessons learned. Although a continuous process, the most precious lessons, however, are typically learned via a method dubbed “the hard way.” In other words, good things don’t come easy–and experience is a hell of a teacher! (Usually she gives the frickin’ test first—and the lesson after.) It’s a time-proven (and dependent) system complete with a catchy tagline designed to trap the masses: with age comes wisdom. Yeah . . . well . . . I have a question . . . actually two . . . Who the eff decided this was the way it was going to be!? And more importantly, who forged my name on this “Age for Wisdom” contract? ‘Cause I know I sure as fuck didn’t sign off on a consolation prize-esque trade-off offered in exchange for the loss of smooth skin, thick hair, perky boobs and a flat stomach (not to mention the ability to remember where my damn car keys are and to maneuver without aches and pains). Moreover, the line is an outright lie and the contract is a con . . .

At 62, I have certainly attended –and graduated (with freakin’ honors, BTW!)–from one of life’s most venerable institutions of higher learning. Ergo as an alum of the renown School of Hard Knocks, I dare say I should have amassed by now a fair amount of that aforementioned age-issued wrinkles-for-wisdom insight I was promised. So how is it that a couple of weeks ago I was schooled by a kindergartner? A five-year-old? A little kid who still has all his baby teeth, who still believes in Santa and hero super powers, and who still occasionally needs help wiping his butt? Seriously?! Clearly this has to be a violation of the AfW contract! But before I pursue legal action and press formal charges, let’s examine the fraud further . . .

The actual notion of adults learning from children is not new. In fact, it’s Old Testament old—if one remembers Isaiah 11:16’s “a little child shall lead them.” The New Testament expands the concept with Jesus’ “whom shall humble himself as a child.” Children are epitomes of humility, possessive of the sort for adults to emulate, as theirs comes not from thinking too little of one’s self, but rather from not thinking too much at all. Furthermore, children hold no grudges. “In malice be ye children,” instructs Corinthians 14: 20. Anyone who has watched a pair of young brothers go at each other tooth and nail—only to turn around mere moments later and play as if nothing had happened, can attest to children’s ability to let bygones be bygones. Btw, those who do not, have been taught otherwise by example. Like the saying goes (which fyi, stems from a 1949 show tune from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific) . . . “You’ve got to be taught how to hate.”

The sincerity of a child is pure—ofttimes to the mortification of its parent. Who among us has not wanted to be swallowed up by the floor by an off-hand comment vis-à-vis: “Mommy why is that lady so fat?” Children tell it like it is. They don’t shade the truth or filter the facts. “Out of the mouths of babes” and “kids say the darndest things” . . . indeed. But the things they say are innocent (albeit brutally honest) observations. As they see it, they say it, ala the out of the blue remark: “Baba, how come you’re old?” Ouch. (And so much for thinking that $200 anti-ageing cream might be making a difference!)

The trust of a child is as equally pure. They believe their parents can do anything. And they want to be like them. Whether it’s the little boy who wants to grow up and marry mommy or the little girl (or boy—‘cause I have the embarrassing pictures to prove my 6’ plus sons did once play dress-up in my heels) or junior following daddy around with his very own Fischer Price tool belt, they want to be like us. Rodney Atkins released a hit song in 2006, that spoke to how children are sponges, absorbing and learning by example and imitation. “I’ve been watching you, dad, ain’t that cool . . . I wanna be like you . . . we’re just alike, hey ain’t we, dad? I wanna do everything you do, so I’ve been watching you.”

Along the lines of children imitating and/or resembling their parents, we speak of “mini-mes.” Duplicates in miniature—whether in terms of appearance or actions. A perfect example . . . my middle son . . . who also happens to have three sons. His middle one is beyond doubt his mini-me—same blond hair, dark brown eyes, mischievous grin. He has his ears, his shoulders, his temper and his temperament. He is the most outwardly loving and giving of the three, wearing in equal measure the middle child’s mantels of peacemaker AND troublemaker. He is outgoing, easygoing and charismatic, but prone to impulsion and peer pressure (not because he can’t stand up to it, but because he likes to please). He is endearing beyond belief. You can’t help but like him.

I see so much of his father in him. Everyone does. But as his grandmother, aka “Baba,” I see more. I see the child his daddy was. And I recognize—as others can’t—that same singular ability to succinctly sum up a situation with the perfect blend of brevity, bravado and truth. Like his dad, Dominik doesn’t give a damn what others think. Whether mistake or achievement, he owns his actions with the same innate confidence that is definitely deju vus for me. At a time when his brothers eschewed public displays of affection and dependence, Jason didn’t care. While his brothers wanted me to park down the street to let them off at school without their friends seeing, Jason would grab my hand crossing a parking lot or envelope me in a huge post game hug—regardless of witnesses. And history repeats . . . A couple months ago I drove Dom and his 9-year-old brother to the bus stop. When I leaned over to give Anthony a kiss, he pulled back—darting his eyes toward his friends queued on the sidewalk. He got out of the car with no-nonsense “bye, Baba” and never looked back. Dominik, on the hand, planted a Cocoa Puffs-scented kiss on my lips and grinned. “I love you, Baba.” Trailing behind his brother with his head swiveled backward so he could see me, he waved the entire way to the bus’s open door.

Of course, it’s entirely possible the contrast in behavior is a simple matter of age—a 9-year-old who has outgrown public cuddles and hugs versus a 5-year- old who has not. But I don’t think so. He is his father’s mini-me. And Jason never outgrew overt demonstrations of love and affection. In fact, instead of being embarrassed by the label of “Mama’s boy,” he embraced it. He wore it proudly through college. And still does. But this post is about a child’s wisdom . . . so let’s return to the story that inspired this whole piece . . .

Last month, I was visiting Jason and his family in Arizona. With my body clock on east coast time, I had woken up long before the rest of the household stirred. Even the Labs ignored me as they snored away on their respective couch cushions. Knowing we were out of milk and the 16-month-old would not be happy about it, I made a quick run to the corner convenience store. While pouring a large coffee to go, I spied the nearby donut case and decided to treat the boys. As they were out of their pink sprinkles and chocolate icing favorites, I tonged instead three chocolate-covered long john looking things into a plastic bag.

I was outside enjoying my coffee and the morning quiet when Dom found me. Always the first one up, he climbed into the chair beside mine. Happily, he took his donut and made short work of it. A while later, Jason joined us. He was soon followed by a cranky, bed-headed, “I didn’t wanna get up, why did you make me” Anthony.

“I got you a donut,” I said, thinking he’d be as thrilled as his brother.

He took a single bite and grimaced. “It has cream,” he said with undisguised disgust. “I don’t like cream.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t realize it had cream inside.”

“I don’t want it,” he answered, holding it toward me.

“Just eat around it,” I suggested.

He grimaced again and took a half-hearted nibble.

“That’s not the right attitude to have,” spoke his father. “You need to be thankful when someone gives you something instead of complaining. Baba didn’t have to get you a donut at all.”

Anthony gave his father a glare. Perhaps feeling the promise of strength in numbers—or commiseration—he looked to his brother. “Dom doesn’t like cream either.”

And then it came. An easy comeback offered as an off-hand remark, paired with a perfect shrug of total unconcern—which brought his father and me to immediate laughter.

Yeah. But I dealed with it.”

Sure, it was cute in its wrong weak verb simple past tense conjugation—but there was more to it than the guileless grammar error. There was the message–a message that resonated long after our laughter died. (Lord, help me help my stupid self!) Was there ever a better maxim for accepting and overcoming life’s slings and arrows and disappointments?

Jason and I shook our heads and looked at one another. Though the reasons are very different, the last couple years have been difficult for us both.

“Dealed with it? he uttered softly.

“Dealed with it,” I answered.

When I got back to Philly, I chalked Dominik’s words on my kitchen blackboard. Still there, they are a daily reminder that how to make the best of what life dishes out and moving on, is just by making the best of it and moving on . . . Jeeze. Who knew?

Answer: A kindergartner who still has all his baby teeth, believes in Santa and hero super powers, and yes, still occasionally needs help wiping his butt. (But . . . if only metaphorically speaking . . . don’t we all?)

Singing in the Lifeboat

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” — Voltaire

Falling for a narcissist is like booking your love boat cruise on a garbage scow—or a doomed ocean liner. (Take your pick—either simile works.) You set your course and mind on a new adventure of romance—and the whole thing sinks like the freaking Titanic. Great. Now what?

In keeping with a travel theme, relationship experts will tell you getting over a failed one is a journey, a progression of phases through numerous stages that take time to reach and even more time to leave. As a traveler upon this trek of glacial forward progress and humiliating reversals, let me tell you: It’s a fucked-up tour! Michelin one star, for sure. And I want my money back. But life doesn’t offer refunds. Not for dissatisfied customers—and most certainly not for clients who misbooked (or were duped by a glossy brochure of lies). Caveat emptor, ladies. Buyer beware.

For the most part (and with a change of transportation metaphor), I have passed through the station of denial. Equally as distant in my metaphorical rear view mirror of “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” destinations lies the borough of bargaining. I have reached the outskirts of acceptance. (I think.) But the train has stalled, and I am stuck (as evidenced by yet ANOTHER post on this tired-ass topic—and trust me, I’m as bored by the subject as you! But writing is my way of processing . . . and so I ask for your kind indulgence.)

As much as I hate the admission, I am trapped. Held hostage by a love that won’t die (or accept a bitcoin ransom–trust me, if there was an amount of money I could pay, I would!), I am caught in the worst kind of limbo, a hellhole called hate and anger and sadness. True, I longer play the “Self-blame Game.” These days it’s all about “Name That Narcissist.” (I’ll take “Manipulation, Lies and Gaslighting” for $1000, Alex.) The rose-colored glasses are off, too. Through the clear lens of time and distance I see the machinations. How he took a one-night stand encounter of intense sexual chemistry and my trust and turned it into a 2 ½ year involvement that benefitted him.

Not that I am without culpability. As I have so often previously stated, I saw the red flags—and chose to ignore them. My need to be needed drowned the voice of reason. Hence, I chose to believe his version of past harms in which he was the victim of not one, but two destroying ex-wives. I thought I could heal him, fix him, complete him. And to that aim, I figuratively—and literally—picked him up off the floor more times than I can count. (And when I couldn’t, I lay down beside him on it and held him while he clung to me in fear, terrified of the demons he had willingly fed and nurtured.) Yet the painful irony is I did heal him. I placed him where he needed to be to get the help he needed. Nearly a year later, he is still on the path of recovery and getting his life back on track via the pursuit of education in a new career field. I know I should find solace in that—and to a degree, I do. Because I do. Love him. Still. (And may for always.) Which makes the pain all the worse that thanks to me he has his life—but it’s a life without place—or desire—in it for me. And yes. That hurts more than I ever imagined it would . . .

I actually spoke to him last week—a phone call of course of my initiation. Having not seen him for months I was finally ready to acknowledge the relationship’s end. I just wanted to hear him say it. Closure. (God, how we as women crave it!) I guess I was hoping too for an apology for his having hurt me—or at least an admission thereof. As per his modus operandi, he gave me nothing. Save the insistence we are still friends. (“Friends who don’t speak? Who don’t see one another?” “It’s only been a couple months, Judith.” “No, it’s been five. Regardless, it’s not my definition of friendship, Don.”)

He did give something though—knowledge I know to be true. (For never has he ever endeavored to spare my feelings by lying about his involvement with other women.) Call me foolish (and trust me, I DO!) but to know—or at least to believe—I was not discarded for another.

I don’t suppose that’s really what Voltaire meant by singing in the lifeboat . . . but it is of some small comfort . . . And I’m taking it. After all–and as my mother was so fond of saying–any port in the storm will do . . . This one does. For now . . .

Letter From A Narcissist

In last week’s post, “Getting Over the Guy Who Got Over Me,” I addressed the arduous process of relationship recovery. Of the many steps involved is the one I called the “rose-colored glasses off” phase, a stage whereat you begin to see the relationship (and him) truly. (Read to mean: as it [he] WAS—and NOT as you WANTED it [him] to be.) Hold this thought.

I also spoke of wanting (needing!) closure. Most women do, especially because we are usually left in the dark with unanswered questions as to why. Rarely, however, do men give it.  The chances of an explanation, an apology—fuck!! even the acknowledgment it’s over—is as likely as Saudi Arabia taking Olympic gold in men’s ice hockey. That doesn’t mean I don’t still want it though . . .

What I actually want is to confront the bastard. I know it won’t change a damn thing, but I still want to. I actually run lines of dialog in my head. (A habit left over from my novel writing days? Probably.) In these imaginary conversations, I don’t only speak my mind and say my piece, I also anticipate his responses. Weird? Probably.  But after 2 ½ years I know how he thinks and reacts to accusations of wrongdoing. And God knows I’ve got his speech patterns down cold—blue collar profanity and wrong grammar mixed with Philly colloquialisms and the occasional, wholly unexpected, impressive vocabulary word used in its correct context.

Another technique/tool I use to obtain the closure he has denied me is to write him letters. I doubt I will ever mail any of them. It helps nonetheless as a form of release. It gets out what needs to, which in turn helps me to process my emotions. Not to mention, remind myself of his bullshit behavior and cowardly denials, his steadfast refusals to accept any accountability.

The following is what I envision his written response would be—should I ever decide to lick a stamp instead of my wounds. Some might think I’m ripping off the scab by revisiting the past. But this harkens back to my earlier point about needing to view the relationship truly. As it was. Too, recounting (and reliving) his actions in print serves to remind me not only of the narc he is, but what a fool I was—valuable beyond measure and vital for those moments when I weaken and think to contact him . . .

 

Dear Judith,

Just to be clear. My conscience is clear. I am not responsible for your broken heart. In the beginning—let me reiterate that—in the very fucking beginning, I warned you. I told you this me. This is how I am. I never told you we were going to be an item. I never gave you a promise ring or promised you a rose garden. That fucking shit is for kids! Hell, Judith!  I told you not to love me! 

Never mind the mixed signals. The times I told you you were important to me and that I needed you in my life. The times I said I didn’t want to lose you and that we didn’t fuck now—we made love. And when I told you I loved you . . . Boo! Babe! It’s how the game is played! First, you undermine a woman’s defenses.  You tell her your heart is guarded because of the hurt other females have done. By nature, women are nurturers, so most of them will eat this crap up! They can’t help themselves. They want to kiss the boo-boo and make it better. Next, you tell her the shit she wants to hear and the shit that makes her feel beautiful and desired—and unique. You tell her she’s not like the other girls and women you’ve been with.  Without ever actually saying it, you let her think she’s THE ONE. The one that can turn a bad boy into a good man. It’s the fucking fairy tale all women want to believe! And it works like a fucking charm every fucking time! Last, you bait the trap to lure her in. You tell her shit that makes her think you’re going to be together in the future . . . like you want to meet her sons or she will meet your friends. You talk about doing stuff and going places. It works every time, and in no time you’ve got her hooked. But like I said, it’s all a game. And I’m a fucking master at it.

You never stood a chance.  Despite your education and intelligence (and yeah, you are the smartest woman I’ve fucked), you were still a novice. Despite your worldly travel and the books you wrote, you were just as dumb as the all the dumbass bitches that came before you. Older than the 30-year-olds I prefer, you weren’t no wiser. In a way, you were actually more naïve. Or maybe just more desperate.  It’s not like a sixty-year-old can compete with a thirty-year-old. You said so yourself the night we met. You asked “Why go with a sixty-year-old?” I answered, “Intellect. There has to be something there for later.” Fuck! What a comeback! I had never used it before, but sure as fuck have since!  So thanks for that.

I will admit though . . . you were a bit more a challenge. It took me a good while to totally figure you out. It threw me at first how little you wanted. You didn’t need to go out so you could show off to the other bitches in the club. What a fucking waste of money some females cost! And time. Waiting hours for them to get ready because they need to look good. You weren’t a pain in my ass about calls and texts neither. I could disappear for a month and never talk to you or not see you for . . . what? It was like 4 months . . . But when I showed back up, you took me right back into your life—and bed. Speaking of . . . there wasn’t no questions about other women I was seeing and fucking neither. When I told you I can’t give you exclusivity, you said you weren’t asking for it.  Fuck, Judith! You made it so easy! I really thought there was a catch—until I realized it was just an indication of how little you valued yourself—that you were happy with so little, though you gave so much.

And you did. Give. I mean, who just hands over a check for $2500 without hesitating—and without an IOU? I know it’s been 2 years and I haven’t paid you back. And just so you know, I don’t intend to. It’s not going to kill you. I give to people all the time and don’t expect nothing in return. Besides, I fucked you for over 2 years. I figure the best sex of your life is worth $2500. Oh, and by the way, when you asked me to pay you back in October. . . I shut that shit right down.  I called you a fucking nut and told you you were looking for something that had nothing to do with money. I told you I would do what I could do when I could, and you dropped it.  Yeah, you might have a temper at first, but I knew you always calm down and come back around. You wanted to be with me so whatever I gave you were happy.

I have told you plenty of times. Don’t ever think I don’t have appreciation for everything you have done for me. I appreciate you took care of all the details with work when I went to rehab. You drove me all the hell out there and brought the FMLA paperwork out. You saved my job and probably my life.  You bought me cartons of cigarettes and new clothes and came very Sunday to visit me. It helped break the boredom at that damn place for sure. But I KNEW you were going to think it meant more than it did. Especially when I got out and stayed at your place for 6 weeks. I pulled back on purpose but fucked you a couple times so you would think there was still something between us. You planned that trip to Venice and I took vacation. I still wanted to go. I don’t know shit about traveling to foreign countries. When I went with you to Munich, we saw some great shit. I knew Italy would be good so I kept acting like we’re friends and I was going to stick around.  But seriously, Judith! Your first clue should have been when I went back to my place and never talked to you for 2 weeks until the day we left for Italy. That one surprised me, I got to admit. I expected temper. But you never said a word. That’s when I realized what a door mat you really are. I knew how bad you wanted to be with me.  But I just wanted to go to Venice. That’s why I was careful it wasn’t a romantic trip like we were a couple. Yeah, we had sex a few times. But sex is sex. It don’t mean nothing. Hell, I didn’t even bother to introduce you to my buddy from work and his wife when we ran into them in the square. But you never said nothing. Toward the end I was getting tired of you. I always do with every female. I need to just do me.    

That’s why when we got back, I disappeared. You tried to text a couple times. I told you I was busy with my life and working a good bit and you dropped it. I did come through to put up your Christmas tree. I was thinking it would keep you off my back about the money. It’s why I showed up in January. It’s why I fucked you when you asked. I can’t believe you can’t get dick, Judith. You can. You just want me.  But you can’t have me. No woman can. I’m a gigolo. I go my own way, see who I please, when I please. You can ask any of the females I have been with and still talk to and sometimes fuck . . . I fuck who I want. When I want. I thought you knew that because I told you.

I do have appreciation you have not been bothering me with dumbass texts trying to make contact. If I wanted to see you, I would. It’s funny as fuck how you females don’t get that! If we’re not around, it’s because we don’t want to be. I told you when you asked my opinion for your friend, there ain’t nothing a woman can put in a text to bring a man back. If he’s 50 miles away, her bugging him will send him 100 miles away. I told you if you tried that shit with me, I’m gone. I also told you if I left, you’d fucking know it.  I’m guessing you know it now since I have not heard from you in a couple months . . . except for that bullshit letter you sent which I am answering now. Why do you have to be so fucking analytical anyway?

I’m sorry you got hurt. But like I said, I warned you. I told you not to love me.

                                                                                                                      Don

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

Getting Over the Guy Who Got Over Me

I started this piece months ago and then shelved it. “Oh, Lord . . . not another ‘poor me, I got dumped’ themed post,” I thought. Of late I’d written so many on the subject I feared I’d become a one-trick pony. Besides, sufficient time had elapsed since Sunday’s fade to black disappearing act had commenced, I was determined to let the bastard bygone lover be bye-bye gone. Life-wise I had turned a corner. I didn’t need to announce it. Writing-wise, I needed to move on.

Then I read an online post in one of the divorced, women-only, starting over groups I follow. The writer posed the question, “How do you get over a broken heart?” Trying to recover from a failed post-divorce relationship, she was W4 struggling (wallowing, weeping and wondering what went wrong—while wanting to do anything to recapture what was.) I knew exactly what she was feeling and how she was hurting. She was me—or rather, me 6 months ago. And in that moment, I knew I needed to write this after all . . . and I apologize upfront for its length.

Poets and songwriters like to claim it’s the price of loving—the pain of losing. But that seems oversimplified—if not stoically cavalier—and definitely abridged. Let us omit not the feelings of rejection and self-recrimination also engendered, addition layers of suffering to add to a sometimes nearly unendurable burden of pain and grief and sorrow. Can it be any wonder the spirit breaks and the heart shatters—and for a while, one might seemingly fall to pieces? I certainly did. The depression I fell into was deep and dark and overpowering, and I wasn’t sure I’d survive it. An embarrassing admission to make, to be sure. Broken hearts are supposed to be for the young and naïve and inexperienced just learning about love—not for a mature, experienced and jaded 62-year-old divorcee. Or so I thought. But like most everything, thoughts can change over time.

In his introductory lines to A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens may have arguably (or at least in my opinion) written the best intro of all time (no pun intended) to “time.” And life. And love won and lost.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Certainly, my relationship with the mechanic I dubbed “Sunday” hit every Dickensian milestone: Born in the spring, it died in the winter. Too, it was an involvement rife with “times.” Times when my heart soared, and I believed the near impossible . . . And times when I weltered in doubt and confusion and cried myself to sleep. Times when I foolishly believed his lies and manipulations—and even more foolishly, clung to the belief I could change him and be “the One”—the one to stay the rolling stone.

But that is the nature of a woman falling in love, especially a woman with an empath’s caring and giving heart. What is the point of loving if one doesn’t go all in? And so, I trusted. I trusted my instincts, my intuition and my emotions. And above all, I trusted his words—all the while turning a blind eye to the obvious flags and his actual actions. Which do, ladies, speak oh so much louder than words. (damn clichés!) But chalk that one up to the “Hard Lessons Learned” column. “I love you. I need you. I don’t want to lose you. I won’t hurt you.” Words. Just words. If a man doesn’t follow them up with actions, then we’re talking meaningless noise—ala Charlie Brown’s “wah-wah-wah.”

But it’s all in the past now. After a September trip to Italy, followed immediately by a now nearly 8-month physical disappearance (broken only by a New Year’s visit, a single February phone call and a handful of texts of which 90% were initiated by yours truly), the writing on the wall I hadn’t wanted to see is crystal fucking clear. And speaking volumes: I fell in love with a narcissist. A broken man I thought I could fix—who doesn’t think he’s broken. (textbook, btw) When confronted, he blamed me (also textbook) ala I “caught feelings.” After all, he’d even warned me, right? Told me not to love him. (textbook, too) Ergo I fell in love at my own peril, and his conscience is clear. Further wiped clean by his modus operandi of keeping past lovers as “friends.” (Read to mean: numbers in his phone he might call once or twice a year, aka women he might sometimes see and occasionally fuck.) BTW, in an irony of all ironies, I asked him in the beginning what the signs were I should beware—the signs I was being moved to the phone friend zone. He told me not to worry about. He told me that wasn’t me. But it was me. It is me. And make no mistake, I fought not to believe it. I told myself every lie we women tell ourselves: he’s busy, he’s afraid, he needs time . . . Ladies, let me repeat myself. Lies! The truth is this (memorize it, stencil it on your wall or tattoo it upon your heart—whatever it takes): If he wanted to see you, he would! And so, eventually and finally I called “Game over.” Only then did the process of getting over him commence.

Let me repeat that as well . . . the process. ‘Cause getting over the guy who got over you is a process. A progression of stages and steps and phases that take time. There is no love potion #9 formula in reverse. Albeit, women replying to that aforementioned question posted online did so with scads of advice (ala cry if you must, but keep putting one foot forward; believe God has a better plan; grow and learn; love yourself ) and suggestions (ala read self-help books; spend time with friends; join a gym; take a class; start a hobby; go to church; volunteer; indulge a wish list or bucket list item; travel, journal, yoga or meditate; find a new guy). Know, however, these are merely means to beneficially fill the aforesaid fix: TIME. Especially in the beginning you need to divert focus on something—anything!—else. Just think of it as an external scabbing over of an internal open wound interval. It’s a needed interim and occurrence that will allow the healing within to eventually begin. (I owe mine to George R.R. Martin. Finally reading and realizing the truly justified hype, I got hooked on Game of Thrones. Over the course of my 3-month scab over period (the deeper the wound, the thicker the scab), I read all 5 books and binge watched all 7 seasons. At 4278 pages and 67 1-hour episodes, we’re talking huge focus diversion and major lonely hours filling!)

The real relationship recovery steps—btw, all necessary, mandatory, required, ain’t no way around ‘em phases—were first coined by Dr. Kubler-Ross during her work with terminally ill patients. She called them the “5 stages of grief.” These are they:

  1. denial
  2. anger
  3. bargaining
  4. depression
  5. acceptance

Like Kubler-Ross’ stages, the five steps to mending a broken heart do not happen on a linear timeline. It’s a roller coaster cycle of forward progress and backward relapses. So when you backside—and you will!—DO NOT beat yourself up over it. The recipe for relationship recovery is full of repetition that takes . . . yep, you guessed it! TIME. As much as you want to, you can’t DSL the process and expect satisfactory results. In a recipe metaphor reference, you can’t crank up the oven. You’ll ruin whatever you’re baking. (FYI, rush into a new relationship to band aid the wound of the old and you may do more damage and end up with a worse scar.) So, trust me on this. And know you will backslide and relapse and cycle (and recycle) through the stages again and again and again. You will lament and resent, isolate and insulate. You may over eat, over drink and over sleep. You will likely let yourself go—hair stays unwashed, work-out routines cease, things that mattered, don’t. If you don’t actually say it, you will think it (at least subconsciously): “He didn’t want me at my best so fuck it, I’ll be my worst.” It makes no sense—except somewhere in the pain, it does. Self-loathing is a real component of relationship recovery for women. We blame ourselves . . . we weren’t enough . . . we were too much . . . we shouldn’t have done X, Y or Z. (FYI, Men, on the other hand, typically blame the woman, acknowledging little to no personal fault or blame for a relationship’s demise.)

Granted, I’m no expert or trained professional. What I may be saying may be the worst advice ever. But I know whereof I feel—and felt. And I’m here to tell you, what you are doing and feeling is not not normal! Before I move on to the subsequent steps, let me make two final comments about all the advice and suggestions previously mentioned. As activities and goals, they are absolutely worthwhile undertakings! But they are, in essence, diversions to make time pass more enjoyably and productively—not faster!! Time only seems to pass swifter if you are physically or mentally occupied. Too, be careful. Too much is just avoiding. Eventually ya gotta deal. In GoT terms, you can’t defeat a white walker (or any monster) by hiding from it—ultimately, you’ll have to confront it, go toe to toe with the foe, take your licks and suffer the blows, bleed and cry. It’s part of moving on. And speaking of, let’s focus now upon those 5 steps . . .

Make no mistake, at first (and for a looooooong while) I absolutely lived in the Land of Denial and Excuses, willing—no, make that wanting—to believe it wasn’t over. (See the “lies” reference above.) It didn’t seem possible that after all we had been through together, he just woke up one morning and decided he was done with me. But he did. And he was. Whether he had felt it—or faked it—I probably will never know. Nor will I ever know why. Ladies, this is bar none the most difficult—the not knowing why. But in the end when it ends, it doesn’t matter “why.” Moving on past the past involves abandoning the past. Sure, I missed him. I wanted him back. (I did!) But slowly I came to realize (or acknowledge) I missed him as I thought he was or as I wanted him to be. I missed what I thought we had. I missed the dream, the fun, the way I felt with him. But not him. Too, with the benefit of distance and time I acquired the perspective necessary to see the narcissist he is and the one-sidedness of the relationship that was. Which prompted the next step: anger.

Hell, yes! I was angry. (And still am.) Furious, in fact. I called him every name in the book and swore to friends and family I was over his shit and done mourning his ass. But the truth was, I missed him terribly. (The distinction that what I might really have been missing was the sex, excitement and connection was one lost to me at the time.) And so came the bargaining. I bartered with myself like a huckster at a flea market—trying to convince myself the crumbs he might still toss to me were better than nothing. (This accounts for his January appearance at my foolish [desperate] invitation). After all, the pickings in today’s dating world for a 62-year-old woman are beyond slim. Making matters worse, sexually he was exceptional. It had been instantaneous fireworks from the beginning with him. I couldn’t bear the thought that celibacy would be my future. But eventually pride and reasoning won out over the sheer fear that my sex life would become a nightstand drawer reality. (Not that it doesn’t remain a stinging irony that the man who taught me intimacy and delivered amazing sex has now robbed me of my desire for either.)

And then in November I round-abouted back to anger and made a sharp turn into depression. Crippling, devastating deep depression. As real as tears and fueled by hate . . . But I didn’t hate him. I hated me. First, for not being enough: young, attractive, thin. And for being too much: intelligent, independent, strong—all the characteristic that had seemingly turned men off my entire life. Self-recrimination merged with self-loathing. How could I have been so blind? So stupid? It would be months on anti-depressants before I was able to transfer my hatred of self to him. Eventually though, I did. When my hair started to fall out from the Wellbutrin, my sense of self-preservation reared and self-value returned. I stopped the Wellbutrin and started hating him. (Or at least professed to.) At first for what he had done—and then (there is a distinction) for being a person capable of doing what he did to someone whose only wrongdoing had been to love him. We had never fought, never clashed or argued. Even living together for 6 weeks and being together 24/7 while traveling had been effortless. Didn’t he miss what we had?

Eventually I stopping reminiscing about the good times and focused instead upon the bad, the times he had treated me like an option. Friends and family had been telling me for months I deserved better. Only now was I beginning to believe it . . . ‘cause I was finally able to see it. This “rose-colored glasses finally off” phase was when I could finally see the fault is his. He is the one lacking. With two failed marriages and a string of women in his past he’d done the same thing to, he is the one damaged beyond repair. There will never be “the One” to heal him because he doesn’t want to be. He sees nothing wrong with the way he is.

Sometime in March—the month of still frigid weather and blustery wind and teasing occasional days of cold sunshine that promised warmer days ahead, I realized I wouldn’t take him back even if he did show back up. He had done this to me twice now—in the same pattern of appearance, disappearance, reappearance. (Yeah, I know. Love cannot only make you blind, it can make you unbelievably fucking STUPID!) There would not be a third time! Reaching this phase indicates huge progress in the process—but it has destructive ramifications. At least for me it has. I struggle not to be bitter and jaded—and even more guarded than I was before I met him. I have vowed never to let another man do to me what he did—use me, hurt me.

I realize such logic is akin to refusing to ride a bike again because you fell off and got hurt. Too, building walls to protect yourself from being hurt again has consequence. Walls don’t just insulate—they isolate. Keep out the pain and you’ll keep out the joy—or the possibility thereof. Just saying. But it is how I feel. For now. Which begs the question: Am I sadly (and self-fulfillingly) setting myself up to be alone for the rest of my life? Or am I smartly preparing myself for a very real reality in today’s dating world? I hardly ever see an age appropriate man I even find attractive. On the rare occasion I do, he’s wearing a ring. On the rarer off chance he isn’t, my thoughts go like this: “He wouldn’t be interested in me anyway.” It’s a thought daily reinforced and proven by the sight of men over 50 with women decades younger. Two years ago when I wrote I Still Want Fireworks (my humor book about online dating), I spoke at length about not settling. I still can’t. And won’t. Now more than ever, because now I want more than ever: fireworks, intimacy, respect, affection and love.

I would do a disservice to this topic if I didn’t address a lingering aftereffect of the pain of a breakup: resentment. It’s hard to look at couples in general (and my age in particular) and not feel it. Two of my closest single girlfriends have recently found guys seemingly perfect for them. Make no mistake, I am absolutely (!) thrilled for them. But it hurts to hear their joy, because I wonder “What is wrong with me?” Btw, “It’s not your time yet” (there’s that fucking word again!) is a statement I despise! (Nearly as much as “It will happen when you aren’t expecting it.” See Fools For Fairy Tales conclusion to read more on this subject.) Again, I’m only being honest in the hope my experience might help another woman through her own failed relationship recovery. I believe with all my heart in commonality there is comfort. Humor and entertainment aside, single@60sucks was always intended to be above all relatable. If what I write does not resonate, I have failed.

Nowadays I still hover between hate and the next (and final stage) of love’s loss: apathy. You see . . . the fine line that separates love and hate still denotes the existence of emotion. Ergo, is apathy (and the total absence of any longer giving a shit) the true goal. And believe me, it takes . . . yep! TIME. Time to reach and time to achieve. So, no. I’m not fully there yet. There are days when I still relapse and return to the earlier stages of depression and loneliness, anger, bargaining and denial. Memories are my enemy: smells, certain words or phrases, foods, a song or a subject that reminds me of him . . . and then the scab gets ripped off. I remember and I miss. But as the memories fade (thanks to time) it has become harder to conjure the details and images that once lived so vividly in my mind. The times between these relapses has gradually increased so that I know I am getting closer.

Just a few days ago, I crossed a new threshold when out of the blue I realized I can no longer picture myself with him again. (Although I’ll admit I still run dialog in my head wherein I get the opportunity to confront and tell him off. I write him letters as well I’ll never mail—but which may at some point appear here . . . or not. Remember, single@60sucks is my way of figuring shit out . . . ) To take him back would negate the growth I’ve achieved. What would that say about this new level of self-respect and worth I have struggled so hard to gain—to take back the man who had so disrespected me? What he took from me is immeasurable, and I don’t know yet if it’s recoverable. Which leads me to a final topic in this discussion. I may be close to being over him. But I am nowhere near being over the damage he did to me. My faith in love (for me) is gone. My trust of men is nonexistent. And my trust in my own instincts has been so destroyed it may be irreparable. I tried so hard for so long because I was so certain it would work. How can I ever trust myself again?

The final—and cruelest irony—is this: Going into my 9th month of my recovery, I’m stronger—and yet more damaged—than I have ever been. There’s a reason we speak of a heart being broken, of faith or self-esteem being shattered, of falling to pieces. But where will surviving and recovering and healing leave me, I wonder. Inspirational memes love to speak of beauty in scars. But seriously, really?! Like a vase put back together my heart is crisscrossed with cracks that have been filled in with a super glue sealant called life’s living and lessons’ learning. And while in appearance it stands intact, the question of function remains. Either stronger—or weaker—for the repairs, is it a vessel that will—or can—hold love again?

Writing this, sitting outside with the tress in bloom and the robins flitting from budding branch to budding branch, I know spring is here. I have survived the winter of my despair. The spring of hope is as alive as the open tulips in my front yard now swaying in a gentle breeze. Recent tragedies (my brother’s terminal diagnosis and a dear friend’s loss of her daughter) have reiterated valuable truths we often lose sight of in the face of a love’s loss: Life goes on. And even in its worst, life is a gift.

And so I sit here and count my blessing: my health and financial security, a job I truly like (and even sometimes love), my sons who have always been the reason for my living, and my grandchildren who are the truest joys of my life. There is a peace and calm—a serenity that descends in acceptance and in living in the moment and finding grace and happiness in the simple gift of waking each day to live another. I have plans for the future, too. Several trips to cross off items on my bucket list. While I don’t necessary believe in that trope that following the worst mistake in one’s love life, one will find the one for whom waiting was worthwhile, I do believe I am a better, wiser, stronger person for having learned what Sunday ultimately taught me: That to be a man’s option is no option.

.

Fools For Fairy Tales (conclusion)

In this final installment of “Fools For” let’s talk “Fairy Tales” that are not the make-believe scenarios and juvenile concepts of childhood bedtime stories and Disney movies (see parts I & II). These fools’ tales told are the made-up truths we grown-ass women tell ourselves (and others) in the well-meaning intent to comfort and inspire.

Axioms, sayings and quotes . . .  sometimes even rambling long-ass paragraphs of life-lived/lesson-learned insight . . . usually calligraphed across breathtaking color pictures of nature or artfully posed models in black and white photographs of classic elegance  . . .  I know you know whereof I speak—these images and words masquerading as messages of hope and wisdom and motivation. We all know them because we all post them and share them—and worse. We interject them in comments to complete strangers as offerings of sympathy, strength and support—these expressions of care, concern and commiseration that function well as well as advice and problem solving. But in reality (or at least in my most cynical version thereof) they are doing a disservice—these banal statements and tired platitudes and one-size-fits-all-always panacean cure-alls. A truly “who knows if it’s true” truth we want to be true. In short . . . fairy tales, ladies, fairy tales, tailored to the situation like the emperor’s new clothes (It’s a metaphor. Read to mean: really not real at all—but because no one speaks up to say nay, the lie abides).

In terms of relationship breakups and moving on the most common bromides (and the ones I personally am sick to death of hearing) are these:

  • You deserve better.
  • The Universe has a plan.
  • There’s a reason.
  • There’s a silver lining.
  • Work on you and it will happen (when you least expect it!)
  • The right one will come along (when you least expect it!)
  • Be the best you can be and someone amazing will find you.

Not that there isn’t a time, place, purpose for—and, yes! a true value in—the above. Nor should the heart-felt desire to pick up another when she has fallen ever be mocked! Please know such is not my aim now. But as one who has heard the spiel one time too many, let me address the unaddressed and point out (STILL a metaphor) the emperor’s hairy ass . . .

Believing in the above en masse as gospel begs the question:  Who then is at fault if my deserved, better, Universe-planned, silver lining, right and amazing one doesn’t come along? (‘Cause in an unfairytale world HE MAY NOT.) Ergo, I must have fucked up. Right? Either I actually don’t deserve better—or I didn’t believe enough, work enough, heal enough to be that evolved version of me Mr. Amazing was supposed to find (when I least expected it). And speaking of evolving and improving . . .

I call bullshit.

Think about it, ladies. We have all known royal bitches, certifiable nut jobs, tiring drama queens or perpetual damsels in distress IN relationships—AND WITH NICE GUYS—sometimes GREAT guys. Yet according to the fairy tale, I have to be the best I can be? Well, why the fuck don’t THEY? No, I’m not perfect. Far from it, in fact!  But neither am I broken. Certainly not so as to need fixing before love can find me. So, yeah. Bullshit.

The unfairytale truth is this:  In spite of our best efforts and sincerest desires, IT DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK OUT THE WAY WE WANT! PERIOD. And here’s a second shocker: SOMETIMES THERE ISN’T A DAMN THING YOU CAN DO TO CHANGE IT! Call it destiny?

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the destinies of we mere mortals were tapestries whose weaving was overseen by three goddesses called “the Fates.” They held and controlled the mother thread of life, watching to ensure that the fate assigned to every being might take its course without obstruction. Islam believes all is written at the time of our births in a “Book of Fate,” including the time of our deaths. (Here’s a fun fact:  So strong was the belief, during the Crusades some warriors rode into battle sans armor—‘cause hey! If it wasn’t their time, it wasn’t their time.) In the 16th century, Protestant Calvanists believed in something called predetermination, a theological little notion that since God has foreordained every event throughout eternity, men (and women, I’m guessing) are preordained either to everlasting happiness or to misery.  (I don’t know about you . . . but in each of these I’m seeing a thread . . . and it’s a mother all right!)

Unsurprisingly, modern man (and woman) rebels against these concepts of a higher being deciding in advance our lot in life. We cite “free will” and “all men (and women, I’m guessing) are created equal.” (REALLY?!? I’m looking at Bradley Cooper on Irina What’sherface’s arm at the Oscars and I’m NOT seeing equal. Just saying, but I clearly drew a short thread compared to hers!) Nonetheless, we believe we control our fates, our destinies, our lives.  What decides our fates, are our choices.

But let me play Devil’s advocate a bit more. Let me ask this:  Have we not all known people who just seem blessed? (My mother used to call them the ones “who can fall in a pile of shit and come out with a rose between their teeth.”) Others, however, are like that cartoon figure with a perpetual cloud hanging overhead. Either way, we call it “luck.” And some have it—and others don’t. Who’s to say, though, that bad luck isn’t punishment for the sins of a former life while good luck is the reward for past good deeds? Seriously, who knows?

Naturally I realize this flies in the face of most popular self-help routes:  The build it and they will come pathways to success and happiness . . . ala the “dream it, see it and achieve it” super highway Oprahites so favor . . . or the nowadays “affirmation” avenue that is all the craze . . . Doubtlessly some reading this will refute me. They will say such negative energy and thinking blocks positive energy and the change the Universe has in store. But hear me out.

I am not advocating total surrender, ala giving up and throwing in the romance towel. Nor am I saying we shouldn’t try to effect change. But “try” is a road without a guarantee of destination.  Hope and try and dreams are all means to what we want to be real. But “want” and “real” are not inclusive. Neither are they absolute truths—as are these:

  • We don’t always get what we give—or deserve.
  • Shit happens.
  • We can’t control everything.
  • It’s the expectation that often makes us the unhappiest

The intent of this post is to let those who are similarly tired of being fed the aforementioned fairy tales know they are not alone in their frustration. This is not to say I don’t still desire the dream of romantic love . . . but when it comes to believing it will happen . . . I’m far less a fool for the fairy tales than I am a pragmatist for the reality that those bitches may have very well pulled the romance thread from my tapestry . . .

 

 

Postscript:  Ladies, if ya still gotta have ‘em . . . the best words this cynic can offer in her well-meaning intent to comfort and inspire are these:

                              Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

                                               The courage to change the things I can

                                        And the wisdom to know the fucking difference!

 

We Have a Scent For That

When is the seed planted? The notion of romantic love—and the desire for all its accompanying accoutrements, i.e. red roses, candlelight dinners, diamond rings, etc. Are we women simply conditioned in childhood with fairy tale Prince Charming scenarios to believe someday our White Knight/Mr. Right will come? Or is it an innate trait? Some leftover primordial hard-wired Cro-Magnonesque species-survival instinct? FYI, said cavemen’s cave was found in France—the land of romance. A coincidence? (I think not.) Or is it something deeper? Say . . . DNA deep? Is there a romance gene?

I have no clue. But I do know there is something. Something within us that causes us to crave it. Like dumbass moths to a flame (maybe that explains the candle thing?) we otherwise seemingly intelligent and even well-educated women gravitate toward the men who make us feel it—even when logic says he’s a prick! Or maybe that’s just me? (I think not.) Whatever the source, it exists. We believe. And we want—and we feel lacking without. No matter how in all other ways our lives are full and fulfilled, we feel as if something is missing. Or maybe that’s just me? (I think not.) There’s a reason Valentine’s Day is the single woman’s most hated holiday . . . just saying.

And while I know it doesn’t help, hear me out. Ladies, we are buying into a lie. And speaking of buying . . . it’s long been a staple in selling.  Marketing 101:  sex sells. But here’s a distinction rarely made—sex sells to men. Ergo, bikini-clad bimbos at car shows, naked pin-up girls on tool and tire calendars and buxom broads on beer labels. A perfect case in point, the short-skirted, hair-blowing, lips-pursed girl the dork wishes to see bare (causing an actual bear to appear) in that STUPID spicy Doritos commercial. Seriously? But let’s be realistic—even if the ad is not. Who eats that shit? (Answer: every male in my family—including the 15-month-old!)

When to comes to women, however . . . it’s romance that sells.  Aside from the obvious—the movie cable channels that keep the lie alive with their cheesy predictable plots and B actors and the no less cheesy and predictable novels (I know, ‘cause I wrote ‘em) that annually rake in over $1B while accounting for over one-third of all mass market books sold—there’s the advertising campaigns, magazine lay-outs and TV commercials that perpetuate the pap. Often truly asinine, these ads typically use tried and true techniques. (Think erotic slo-mo body part montages, soulful glances, billowing clouds and crashing waves—all to the accompaniment of mood music ala Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game). While the products they hawk sometimes have a recognizable correlation to romance (ala perfume ads), it’s an equal bet romance is irrelevant to the product at hand. Not that it matters—’cause remember, romance sells.

My favorite (not) is an ad currently airing for Glade 3-wick candles. (Somehow better than 1 wick??) If you haven’t seen it, let me enlighten you (no pun intended).  It’s tagline is Love . . . we have a scent for that. Only 14-seconds long, the spot nonetheless manages to get the full romantic love fantasy in . . . or at least what the marketing masterminds have determined that fantasy is . . . rose petals up the stairs leading a waiting guy with a balcony behind him and a European view. But wait! It gets better! He’s on bended knee with a guitar (wtf!) and a ring (double wtf!) in hand.  SERIOUSLY?!?  

Now to be fair to the geniuses behind this commercial, scent is a powerful sense.  In fact, it is the most powerful of the senses because it is the only one capable of triggering both a reaction and a sensation. Unlike a sound or a sight, a touch or a taste, a smell can transport you back to a moment in time. (The smell of diesel instantly takes me back to Germany, while the odor of old beeswax in an antique store transports me to my grandmother’s basement where she stored old furniture. And we won’t even talk about where I go when the random guy passing me on the street smells like the same bodywash Sunday uses . . .) There’s actually an anatomical reason why smell triggers emotions and subsequent memories. Sense of smell is the only one of the senses biologically linked to our limbic systems. That said . . . I have a newsflash, S.C. Johnson & Sons . . . love doesn’t have a scent! However, as anyone who has gone at it for an extended period of time in a closed space knows . . . sex does.

Now there’s a marketing match made in Heaven.  Simple a equals b and b equals c transitive law logic . . . sex smells and sex sells . . . Hell! Who knows? The post-coitus funk smell of sex could be coming soon to a candle near you . . .

Or not.

Fools for Fairy Tales (Part II)

As a generation, we women of the Boomer persuasion (and by definition ergo reared on Disneyesque fairy tale “happily ever after” endings– see Part I) are fucked. Too harsh? Too vulgar? How about this: We are screwed because our perception of what “should be” is skewed. Better? It shouldn’t be. ‘Cause the message is the same . . . And it’s even worse (and yet easier, so read on) for so-called Gen Xers and Millennials—and please, DON’T even get me started on Millennials—it won’t be a pretty picture, I promise you. But yes, for the self-absorbed, selfie-filtered, for whom every minutia of mundane daily life is social media-worthy ‘cause they are sooooo special—as their helicopter parents indulged them to believe since everyone gets a trophy—generation, it is much much worse (and yet better, easier . . . keep reading, I’ll get to it). After all, they’re the generation nurtured in the land of “No,” an Oz-like, safe space world with no challenge, no failure, no responsibility, no disappointment, no work ethic . . . Oops—See! I TOLD you not to get me started!

<insert sound of rewind>

Since the 1950s romantic fantasy and romantic love have been inextricably linked, ala the fairy tale/someday my prince will come/happily ever after scenario which still exists and still endures in popular culture, movies and books. My theory as to why is this: Once arranged marriages went by the wayside (circa second half of the 20th century) and at about the same time (coincidence? I think not) when women entered the workplace en masse, not as Rosie the Riveter stand-ins for off-at-war men but in their own right, seeking their own place, earning their own money and independence and escaping the preordained path of their mothers and grandmothers, they were finally free to choose their future mate.

Not surprisingly, they envisioned story-book, fairy tale, ideal love stories for themselves. (After all, who is going to dream of bad or so-so shit happening?) And so the fantasy was born (and put on celluloid by Disney): True love. Love at first sight. Love everlasting. In short, perfection. Not only in their mate. Which meant a heart-thumping, butterflies in the gut feeling initial attraction that endured through adversity (but only a little) to culminate in a white dress and veil (or a ridiculous bird hat—if your name is Carrie Bradshaw and you’re a fictional character on TV). But also perfection as in a “they lived happily ever after” afterlife.

Ironically, however (and to prove my point) up until the 20th century, the greatest love stories in western history and literature were not happy ending stories—they were, in fact, tragic. Furthermore, not only did most of these couples die (Is that what they mean by happily ever after??), more than half of these immortal lovers were married to someone else! Hello? (BTW, several of these couples are circa the Medieval Ages–a possible origin for that whole “knight in shining armor” shtick?) But judge for yourself. And if you don’t know who the hell these pairs were, blame the lack of classical education in modern education ‘cause now we have to teach to the test and the lowest common denominator—‘cause everyone gets a trophy–I mean an A—otherwise Sikorsky Dad and Bell Mom will sue. Uh-oh. I feel another rant . . .

<insert sound of rewind>

Rather universally (or at least according to my internet searches) the following are regarded to be history and literature’s greatest love pairs: Romeo and Juliet (a couple synonymous with love), Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Paris and Helena (of the thousand ships launched beauty), Orpheus and Eurydice, Napoleon and Josephine, Odysseus and Penelope (She waited 20 years for his ass to return!), Paola and Francesca (huh?), Abelard and Heloise (Dude sacrificed his man parts for love—how could he NOT be on the list?), Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler (the personification of the love/hate, can’t live with/can’t live without attraction), Jane Eyre and Rochester, Pyramus and Thisbe (half a huh), Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy, Queen Victoria and Albert (Vickie mourned Bertie’s death for 40 years and wore black til the day she died. . . Props for walking the walk, girlfriend! Serious props. A woman who’s going to sacrifice fashion and her wardrobe for love, sure as fuck deserves to be on the list!)

Given the above as role model examples and templates, can it be a surprise that once modern, emancipated women could choose, they kept the love part and 86ed the rest? They disappeared the adversity and separation and other trials and tribulations, idealized the whole relationship into a fateful, meant to be soulmate scenario—and then rewrote the fucked up ending into the fairy tale ending of their childhoods. But besides scripting an ending for a beginning, where’s the harm? Happiness ever after is just an ideal. So again, where’s the harm?

The harm is here: an “ideal” is also a hope, an anticipation, a belief, an expectancy . . . DING DING DING (and there it is). The harm is in the expectation—because the ideal of perfect happiness contains the expectation of perfect happiness. So when expectations fall short—as they will ‘cause life ain’t a fucking fairy tale!—what happens? Unhappiness. Dissatisfaction. The question: Did I make a mistake? For a generation, in particular uninured to challenge and never taught disappointment, hard work, time investment to obtain goals . . . a generation weaned on want and a world of instant availability and innumerable choices all a keystroke or finger swipe to the right away, this can mean disaster, which starts with a D—as in divorce. In short, whether marriage or relationship, they opt out and move on to the next possibility. Easy-peasy. (Told ya I’d get to it.)

But for we women Boomer-born . . . we who were taught the value of hard work and not everyone gets a tropy ’cause you have to work your ass off and sacrifice, we who have known challenge and failure and disappointment and hurt feelings without safe spaces, what do we do? We persevere. Stick with it. Try to make it work. Overlook the flaws. Make excuses and make do. We lie in the bed we made—though it might mean we will toss and turn like the Princess and the Pea fairy tale. And there’s the segue back! As much as we recognize reality, we also understand time and effort and reward. And we also believe. We believe in the fairy tale ending. So we stay when we should go. We put up and shut up. Even when we know we are being foolish, we still hope because we are fools. Fools for fairy tales . . .

To be continued . . .

Fools for Fairy Tales (Part I)

Maybe it’s not even our faults? After all, weren’t we reared on the Disneyesque “once upon a dream” dream? Those “happily ever after” stories and movies featuring Prince Charming—in all his many manifestations:  either real prince or half god or bad-boy prince turned beast or bad-boy prince turned frog or (oooh, hey, let’s mix it up!) bad-boy street urchin thief turned carpet-flying prince. Hell, even the ones starring cartoon foxes and spaghetti-eating dogs feature an “outlaw” and a “tramp.”

Argue if you will. It won’t help. It’s my blog. Besides, I’m right. The bad-boy (prince or no—but always better if so) transformed (sometimes literally!) by the love of a good, brave, caring, gutsy girl and their forever happy life ever after is the staple of nearly every Disney movie ever made. At least the ones my generation watched. (Merida, Disney’s feminist princess, was decades away from the drawing board.) And did you ever know a little girl who didn’t watch her favorite a zillion times?

Small wonder the tripe—and its repetition—has served to subconsciously imprint an enduring feminine romantic fantasy that is nearly DNA deep. (If not totally indelible—it sure as shit is Sharpie-permanent.) It’s still the principal plot of most romance novels—only now we are more inclined toward whip-wielding billionaire playboys (Seriously, people! Seriously?!?) or war-scarred SEALS or haunted ex-cops (or twice divorced mechanics?) or any other seemingly unattainable, but built like a brick shithouse hunk of hurt in need of healing. Yep. The bad-boy turned good by the love of a good woman . . .  a childhood fairy tale scenario that endures ineffaceably far into adulthood . . .

But there is a Magic Eraser (metaphorically speaking). Apply a little water (a lot of tears) and with effort (and time), it’ll wipe that shit right out. It’s called “reality.” And fortunately for some of us, it does come in a multi-pack—‘cause sometimes once just ain’t enough to unlearn the lie. The bad-boy remains bad. Ladies, listen up. And repeat after me: The fucking frog stays a fucking frog! And the good woman is left feeling like a fool for the fairy tale she envisioned wherein she could “fix” him.

Yet that is only half of the fairy tale fallacy. Even worse is the “happily ever after” programming whereby we fantasize a fairy tale ending to what is a beginning. Newsflash:  Unlike books and movies—and fairy tales—life continues past the final page turned or the fade to black kiss. The credits don’t roll. And there is no Oscar-worthy theme song . . . though I am partial personally to Adele’s It Matters How This Ends . . .

‘Cause what if I never love again?

To be continued . . .

 

The Narcissist and the Empath

I have always resisted labels. They generalize and simplify so as to create a convenient (and lazy) “one size fits all” uniform designation for dummies. Great for cookie cutters and cookies. Not so much for people.

But recently I read an article that hit uncomfortably home. Entitled “Why Do Empaths End Up With Narcissists?”, it was one of those author unknown relationship-related pieces of the ilk regularly posted and shared on women’s Facebook groups. Like men sit around and read that shit? But a woman looking for answers to love or why her relationship failed . . . yeah. Don’t kid yourselves. We eat up that tripe by the tablespoon. Sorry, ladies. But it’s true. Come on. Be honest. A case in point, how many of you took that ridiculous numerology-based quiz “Have You Found Your Soulmate?” (BTW, if you are curious . . . my result was that I “already have,” I “know it” and though we are not “physically together at this point,” we “will be.” Great. Just what I needed . . . more false hope on the subject of Sunday! But that’s a topic for a future post. Continuing with this one . . .

First of all, while I have never not thought that aforementioned man had narcissistic tendencies, I have never regarded myself as an empath. The connotation for me was one of passive gentleness and caring. Way too kind a label for this hard bitch whose own sons have called an “Ice Queen.” Yet in reading Ms. Unknown’s outline of the 21 stages of a common relationship that can take place between an empath and a narcissist . . . in a word—OUCH. Had she provided little check-off boxes, I would have had twice the number of little Xs needed to win Tic-Tac-Toe without 3-in-a-row. In short, I was able to answer “yes” to a whole lot more of those stages than I was comfortable admitting to openly—or even to myself.

If you haven’t seen the article, here’s a brief and abridged recap as to the points I personally related to. The actual article was much longer and detailed, but please know I am giving all credit to Ms. Unknown. Had I thought to actually screen shoot the article, I would be putting in proper MLA citation format (and quotes) her specific statements, comments and concepts. The statements in italics, however, are purely my own. They are my thoughts and reactions as to how Ms. Unknown’s concepts pertained to me.

The Attraction

  • A narcissist will attract an empath because the empath feels validated by someone in need of her care. (True for me and my ex—though I resented his dependence and grew to despise his lack of independence, I never had a problem with my kids’ dependence. I loved feeling needed—ergo wanted—it defined me and gave me purpose. So much so that now they are grown, I am lost without that role to play.)
  • The narcissist’s need of her care begins to develop into a strong sense of unconditional love within the empath. (“Unconditional” was a level I never reached with my ex. In fact, the first time ever in my life I felt such for a man was with you-know-who.) The narcissist, however, has no intent of returning that love—though he (or she, ‘cause it’s not gender specific, though for the sake of ease we will heretofore refer to the narcissist as a “he” and the empath as a “she.”) goes through the motions and gives signs and drops hints. He may even use the L-word. (He did.) Which, of course creates

The Illusion

  • The empath feels a real connection. (BINGO)
  • But the narcissist’s goal is not to connect, but rather to control. He manipulates the illusion to his end, which is to break down the empath’s self-esteem. Once he creates an unhealthy dependence, he is in control—which then results in a constant cycle of manipulation. (OUCH. Hard to consider as true . . . but hitting waaaay too close for comfort . . .) Not to mention, having this woman on a proverbial string is a huge stroke to his already inflated sense of self. ‘Cause what narcissist isn’t an egotist? (Call it by another name if you want–arrogance, swagger, confidence–but for yours truly? Yeah. One of those moth to the flame attractions that dooms me from the start . . .)

The Failure

  • The empath’s intentions on loving the narcissist are pure. She wants to do everything in her power to heal him. Whether it be his pain from prior failed relationships or even addiction issues, she believes in (or wants to) that ole “all he needs is the love of a good woman” load of crap. (BINGO and OUCH) But her efforts WILL fail.
  • Reality is, the narcissist doesn’t believe he is damaged! (BINGO) He either believes or insists or deludes himself with an equally large load of shit: He is immune to love. Hell! He might even warn the empath: Don’t love me. (YEP BINGO and OUCH) Which of course only strengthens the empath’s resolve to persevere and succeed where all others have failed. (Or is that just me? The always has to get an A perfectionist?)

The Trap

  • The “relationship” is all about the narcissist—his needs, wants, decisions, timetable . . . (YEP. If I heard it once, I heard it 100 times . . . “I see who I want when I want” . . .)
  • The empath begins to see imbalance. (Of course she does–she’s not a TOTAL idiot!) She begins to question why she is with this man. (UH-OH…) The truth is, she is unhappy and dissatisfied because . . . (Pause. Wait for it) . . . she wants more. (OUCH OUCH OUCH) But she is afraid to end it. Or doesn’t want to. Or she hopes with time, he’ll become the man she wants him to be. (Yep, that ole nemesis “hope” and its ever eternal springing . . )

The Cycle

  • The narcissist-controlled rollercoaster/merry-go-round continues
  • until the empath hits her breaking point. (Personally, I didn’t so much “break” as I twisted myself in knots, trying to justify and rationalize . . . while writing such pointed and not so pithy pieces as Yo-Yo Romeo, Cherry-picking and The Emperor Has No Clothes . . .)

The Shift

  • The delusion of the “relationship” finally falls away for the empath. (Ladies, at some point, ya just gotta see the writing on the wall!)
  • She speaks up. (When I finally did, it didn’t go well. At all. By then there was so much hurt on my part, it spewed like Vesuvius.)

(Note: I don’t recall what Ms. Unknown called the remaining stages—so I’m calling these that reflected me and Sunday’s relationship what they were for me.)

The Explosion

  • When the empath vocalizes her concerns—or finally speaks her mind—the narcissist reacts with anger. (To put it mildly . . .)
  • He calls her “crazy” and “delusional.” He invalidates what she feels, denies the facts and throws the blame back on her. He claims innocence (ala “I never done you wrong.”) before hurling that notoriously male accusation which serves to absolve him of any complicity: You caught feelings. (CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK and CHECK)

The Self-doubt

  • The empath questions herself. Her innate insecurities surface. If she can’t be loved by this man to whom she has given her heart, then the fault must be hers. She must be “not enough” or “too much.” Either way, somehow she must be unworthy of being loved. (I went down that road over and over and cried enough tears to flood the fucking thing!)
  • The narcissist has no such feelings.
  • The empath stays and continues to wait for crumbs. When he doesn’t metaphorically speaking drop any, she texts or calls in an attempt to get him to toss a scrap of his attention her way. All the while she continues to delude herself with excuses to explain his behavior, which is in truth quite explainable: Honey, he’s just not that into you! (Butanything is better than nothing” is a freakin’ flotation device that will keep you afloat on false hope. Besides, if you truly deserve better, why doesn’t “better” come along?)

The Awakening

  • At last and eventually (Remember, she’s not a total idiot!) the empath begins to realize the bitter truth. The narcissist does not deserve her love, care, affection. He will never change. She can’t him “fix” him. With this painful awakening she is finally strong enough to break free of his control. And does (or tries to). But before she can begin the process of healing . . .
  • The narcissist has recognized the tip of power, his loss of control. And he reacts to maintain it. If he was gone, he returns. If he was distant, he becomes affectionate. He says what he knows she wants to hear.
  • Which brings the empath to a crossroads. . .

The Repeat

  • Faced with his face (i.e. his presence back in her life) the empath falters. Hope or fear or what she mistakenly believes is “love” may well weaken her resolve. Against her better judgment and the advice of caring friends and concerned family
  • she and the narcissist pick up where they left off and the whole damn cycle and the previous 8 stages repeat.
  • But if she has finally seen the light, the final stage will finally commence . . .

The Healing

  • The empath will stop the cycle.
  • She will accept the fact this “intoxicating” relationship is in fact only a “toxic.”
  • She begins the process of healing, severing all contact with the narcissist.
  • With time (and perhaps professional help) she will come to recognize her worth. She becomes stronger and wiser–and more cautious of whom she gives her love to in the future.
  • The narcissist has no such improvement. He moves on like nothing happened to find another.

This post is by no means an authoritative treatise. There are countless articles written by true experts and educated professionals available online regarding this oh-so-common pairing. If you recognize yourself in any of the preceding, by all means do some research and delve into it.

Remember the old saying “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”? Understanding the dynamic between an empath and a narcissist may help to shed a light. That light may not serve to illuminate an actual way out, but it can make sitting in the dark a tad more comforting. At the least it might make visible the writing on the wall . . .

As for me? Fuck. Yours truly is still looking for more matches and candles . . .