Cherry-picking

“Cherry-picking” is defined as the action of selecting only the most beneficial items from what is available. So…..Ladies, a question? Since statistics indicate more older women than ever are choosing to be single instead of married (and since I can’t possibly be the only one who says: Oh hell to the no! Choosing to be single is NOT choosing to be celibate . . .), are we single gals “of an age” cherry-picking our post divorce wants & needs? In other words (and unless I really am the lone slut at the single sisters’ table) are we picking out just the best part(s) of being with the next man — and deep-sixing the rest? Are we with our actions and words — in either conscious thought or subconscious instinct — telling the naked guy in our bed: “Be fun to be with, hold me, screw me, spend time with me, tell me I’m sexy and beautiful — then toodles til the next time –’cause I ain’t doing your laundry, cooking your meals, picking up after your ass, figuring out your fucked up finances, making your doctor appointments, reminding you to call your mother or any of the other myriad of mundane day-in-day-out shit I did for x-number of years.” (In my case, 36)

Harsh, right? But is it true? Because truth be told . . . I think maybe I was cherry-picking my last relationship’s best parts (and his). (OMG! Did she just say that??) Yes, I did. And furthermore many experts say I’m not alone. But before I do my usual survey/research/statistics shtick, let’s recap . . .

Regular readers know of my ongoing/offgoing relationship with Sunday (aka “I don’t do relationships but I show up when I please”) who recently informed me he was in love with another woman. Oh, but wait! It gets waaaay friggin’ better! He said he was waiting a couple years to marry her. And for those of you who haven’t kept a scorecard (or read “Time to Say Goodbye”) — Dude is 52 and the object of his affection is 28!! (OMG! Did she just say that??) Yes, I did. And let me count the ways that fucking stings . . .

Lamenting the loss (because what woman in her right mind would sign on for that gig?), I opened up last weekend to a girlfriend. (It’s what we women do.) She’s not one of my usual 2 go-to sister-confessors, so damn! If Girlfriend 3 didn’t have a whole new take on my heartbreak . . .

“What do you want from him?” she asked.

Ironically, Dude had asked me the same question the night he dropped his little bombshell. I gave her the same answer: “I don’t know.”

“Well you need to figure it out,” she answered. “Are you looking to be in a relationship with him? Do YOU want to marry him?”

“NO. I won’t ever, ever, EVER get married again. I don’t want to play house. Do the day-in-day-out thing. And I’m sure as fuck not co-mingling my money.”

“Ok, so you’re telling me what you DON’T want. What is it you DO? And don’t tell me it’s a relationship — ’cause all those things you just listed — that you don’t want — are what make a relationship. So you don’t want a relationship.”

It took a long pause and a whole lot of thinking before I could come up with an answer. “What I had, I guess. Hanging out a couple times a month, maybe taking the occasional trip. Sex.”

She looked at me, her head tilting. “Did you think you two were exclusive?”

I bit my lip. “Nope. He was always honest about that. He comes and goes, does want he wants, sees who he pleases. I just figured when he was with me, he wanted to be with me. And he always made me feel that way.”

“Well, girlfriend,” she said with a laugh. “You don’t want to hear this . . . but THAT is exactly what you have still. He’s not moving on. He THINKS he’s in love with her. He THINKS he’s going to marry her – in two years. In the meantime, you threw a curve ball at him. You’re obviously not what he prefers . . . age-wise . . . yet he’s still coming around. He likes you. He told you you matter, he trusts you, he likes being with you. Hell! He even told you he loves you–“

“As a friend,” I interrupted.

She waved a hand. “Doesn’t matter. And shit happens. He said so. Things can change. Friendships become relationships. Plus he knows you love him and he hasn’t headed for the hills because you do. So unless you DO want what he THINKS he wants with this girl — and clearly SHE doesn’t want it now — then why are you sad?”

Ouch. Talk about food for thought and a banquet of oh boy, oh boys . . . “I don’t know,” is all I could put on the table.

“Well you gotta figure out. ‘Cause unless you want more, you’ve got it– at least until what you DO want comes along. And by the way, I don’t think it’s him. Because IF it’s the right one, then you are going to want ALL those things you just said you don’t.”

“Doesn’t that make me stupid to still see him? Knowing . . .”

“It goes back to what you want. If this is it – and you have it – then it makes you smart. And seriously . . . looking like he does . . . I don’t blame you. I get it. So until – or unless – ‘better’ comes along . . . ” She shrugged and smiled. “Judith, what do YOU want?”

Indeed. What?

I want what many single women want. And not just women newly single or those whose D.O.B predates Disco by decades. Nowadays, and in greater numbers, women are choosing freedom and independence over relationships with men. For example, last year in Australia, fewer women got married and more got divorced than has ever occurred there before. Experts who apparently study this sociological stuff, say women in their 20s and 30s are focused on fun and friendships and are not ready for love, while older women just prefer to be responsible for their own lives and happiness.

I’ll buy that. But let’s talk specifically “older” divorced women — because that’s my demographic (and it’s my blog). Factor in the facts that the dating scene for us sucks, that we have the means and ability to be self-sufficient in ways that didn’t exist 30 years ago, the stigma of divorce has greatly diminished AND it’s ok to have sex without marrying and BINGO! Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner! Marriage — or remarriage — just ain’t the end-goal it once was. And I, for one, am doing my damnedest to dispel the stereotype of the lonely, miserable spinster who will grow old alone and die with a herd of cats that will eat off her face.

So let’s talk more about this (my) group, a.k.a OWOOMs (older women opting out of marriage) The truth is (remember, according to the experts), women today, in general and of my age in particular, are far less likely — or willing — to suffer unhappiness in an unhappy marriage. Moreover, OWOOMs are happy single — as long as “single” was not forced upon them. (And even then, we cope better than men because we network). But living life solo isn’t just a happier choice for some — it’s a healthier one. At least, according to a 2013 study of nearly 80,000 post-menopausal women in 40 places across the U.S. Between the ages of 50-79, they were followed over a 3 year period as they stayed unmarried or married, got divorced or separated, got remarried or “entered into relationships that were like marriage.” Only women who became widows were excluded from the results which have been published and referenced in rather reputable places, including The Journal of Women’s Health and Psychology Today. Here are the findings released in 2017:

  • For those who were unmarried and then got married: their BMI, level of drinking and systolic blood pressure went up.
  • For those who were married and got divorced or separated: their BMI, waist circumference, and diastolic blood pressure all went down, while their healthy eating habits and level of physical activity went up.

Interesting, eh? That women overall became healthier when divorcing or separating from their husbands?

So . . . happy and healthier . . . with her own place, own money, own life . . . what’s not to like? And here’s another interesting fact based upon a 2014 Australian survey of 3500 single participants: 76% of the women reported being satisfied with their single lives, as opposed to 67% of the men. And now a final contributing factor for some choosing to be single instead of married in older age . . . We fucking live longer! As a rule. So where’s the mystery that many of us don’t jump at marrying a new man? I figure the inner dialogue goes something like this: “Why should I reorganize my whole life to accommodate a new man when chances are pretty damn good he’s going to die on me in a few years? And if he gets sick first — and seeing as I have way more assets than he does — where’s the upside of linking myself to him legally and sacrificing my own future financial well-being ?”

Harsh, right? But it’s reality. And so maybe we deal ala a favorite movie of mine, Heartbreak (no pun intended) Ridge . . . We improvise. We adapt. We overcome. And yes, we cherry-pick. We select what we want and take only the best parts of a relationship:

√ the physical connection with someone who offers human touch and intimacy

√ the emotional connection that allows vulnerability and the sharing of happiness, sadness, hopes, dreams, experiences and honest conversation

√ the fun and comfort of just being with someone you just enjoy being with

Yep. Check. Check. And check. And guilty as charged.

Ergo, as a self-confessed perpetrator of the crime of cherry-picking, why the eff am I now surprised (or hurt ) to discover there are pits? Damn! We’re talking real food for thought now . . .

Sooooooooo . . . about that 28-year-old stone . . . is it time to be logical – and practical? After all, as with any unpalatable matter that somehow comes to get stuck in a woman’s craw . . . let’s be honest. We all know the choice. Spit or swallow. (OMG! Did she just say that?) Yes, I did.

Rejection is a River

In Getting Naked Again psychologist, Ph.D. and author Judith Sills offers some pretty good advice for women 40 and older starting over after divorce, death or being dumped. I believe it’s worth sharing–with a spin. (Metaphors . . . it’s what I do.) You see . . . while I may not be a Ph.D., I do have L.I.F.E. framed on my wall. (It’s hanging next to a B.A. in German and a Reviewers’ Award of Excellence for a romance novel I wrote in 1993. Ok, I’m kidding–about the L.I.F.E. Degree. But the other two not. Them’s I got.) Moreover, prior to my 2016 six month experiment with online dating – chronicled in my humor book I Still Want Fireworks (and available on Amazon hint, hint) – I pretty much managed—over a span of four freaking months—to qualify (in order) on all three of Dr. Sills’ ds. Ergo as a textbook example of, I figure I’m an expert for. Or not. But since it’s my blog, oh well . . .

So . . . here it is, with an assist from Dr. Sills . . . my metaphoric lessons lived and learned—and condensed into a handy-dandy 3 step starting over synopsis:

  1. Rejection. Don’t kid yourself. When you start dating again, it happens. And it hurts! Whether online or off—and even if you really don’t even want the snaggle-toothed, balding, potbellied, dead fish holding loser—being stood up or ghosted or dumped in any way by him still stings! Ladies, rejection is like a river – and it washes away your confidence and erodes your self-esteem. (It also resurrects even long dormant insecurities. But that particular visual doesn’t work with this metaphor. Nevertheless, think of a dam some busy little freakin’ beaver built . . . it slows your mojo flow to a trickle.) In my case, ala online dating, at the three month midpoint I’d had 486 profile views, only 52 email contacts and a scant score of replies that resulted in 1 lousy dinner date. Now I ask you . . . How could any woman in her right mind not feel rejected?
  2. Self-doubt. Being rejected during the dating/starting over process—especially if you were the one dumped or divorced—inevitably leads to the belief that something is wrong with you. And then whoa, Nellie! Suddenly your “toos” (too old, too fat, too needy, too controlling, too whatever) become a side channel that flows right back into Rejection River. Now Reject. Riv. is a churning torrent, raging down Rebuff Mountain to sweep you in self-pity and drown you in doubt. Before you realize it, you are convinced you are undesirable and unworthy of being loved—especially if you were left, dumped or divorced for a better model with obvious upgrades. BTW, even if you divorced him, society has a tendency to still consider you the one lacking. Whether he was an alcoholic, abuser, control freak narcissist or serial cheater . . . it doesn’t matter. YOU walked, so YOU failed to make it work. YOU failed to honor the whole “for better for worse ’til death do us part” promise, and so YOU broke up the family—happy or not. “No wonder no one wants you now!” screams your inner insecure self. FYI, Dr. Sills calls this spate of emotions a “flood.”
  3. Giving up. At some point, however, the feelings faucet turns off. Hot emotion turns to icy indifference. Rejection River has frozen over, and floating floes of ice make navigation a practical impossibility. Indeed, Dr. Sills refers to this as the “freeze.” I call it the “fuck it” phase. No one is ever going to want you—not now, not later, not ever—so what’s the fucking point of trying? You might as well dock your dating boat and hang up your oars. Your paddling days are over. Take up knitting and get a cat. (I love the TV promo I once saw for an upcoming episode of some comedy show. The mom asks her adult daughter, “So, now that I’m undesirable to men, do the cats just show up? Or do I need to go to the shelter and pick some out?” I may have misquoted it, but the essence, humor and truth are certainly there.)

According to Dr. Sills (who I am sure does have a Ph.D. framed on her wall), all of the emotions and reactions relayed above are normal. She calls the whole process “healing.” And healing, she says, “is slow and it does not occur in a straight line.” Healing entails answering a lot of questions, too. For example, what it is that you want now? And what is it that you’ll want later? (See my post or video “Sex vs Intimacy part 1” for more details.) Indeed, you might not know right away. And that is ok. Here is where Dr. Sills believes dating of any form helps, online or off. (Personally, I’m not too sure—but I’ll defer to the real expert, ’cause trust me. My insistence upon fireworks has gotten me nowhere–except burned.) Even if all you learn from the experience is what you don’t want, that’s progress, says Sills. It gets you closer to what you do. (I’ll buy that.) She also talks at length about the need to “relax your requirements,” “check your attitude” and “cut yourself and the guy across the table a break.” She also advocates re-examining one’s objectives, contending that are “different men for different purposes,” whether they be for travel, dinner, conversation or sex. She believes lowering expectations and shifting thinking will put “more fun and less fret” into the dating experience. Her final big piece of advice: “Slow down and resist your urge to hunt for The One” and look instead “for a little while, to date the many,” because “even a lousy date can pay off in several ways.” She lists them on pages 139-140 of her book, if you are interested.

Personally, I’ve spent more time than I ever wanted – or expected – paddling Rejection River. And BTW, Rejection River has another name. Starting out as a lovely, picturesque, seemingly perfect watercourse (no pun intended), it goes by the enticing (and oft deceptive) name of Mr. Right. Unfortunately though, this initially quite enjoyable ride can betray expectations. The current can turn hazardous. And before you know it, you can find yourself headed for a drop-off. Ergo, you need to pay attention to the warning signs beforehand. (Yes. Do as I say, not as I do.) In my case, I sure as hell missed a lot of them. But following the events of two weeks ago (see “Time to Say Goodbye”) . . . yeah, nothing but treacherous rapids ahead. So before I totally wreck my canoe, I gotta dry dock it (no pun intended). I also need to seek out a less challenging stream. Fellow boating enthusiasts do say there’s a less perilous option for my future endeavors. Also heartily recommended by many canoeing experts, including Dr. Sills, I hear tell it’s a rivulet called Mr Right For Right Now. I guess after I patch up my canoe and bandage my bruises, I’ll be looking for it . . . Or not.