Saturday, March 6, 2010

To Tell the Truth

"I would only tell him everything if I didn't like him," my friend Cindy said, as I described my first foray with e-harmony dating. I met him after work at a Peet's, conveniently located a block and a half between our respective offices. Once we were seated, he asked how my day had been. A considerate way to begin a conversation under normal circumstances. But I ask, how do you respond to this question, when your work situation gets more surreal with each passing day? It's hard enough explaining this ongoing workplace soap opera to your friends, but you can't tell a man you've just met that you've only been working at your new place of employment for two months and it may go bankrupt due to the pedestrian leadership of people who make the Marx Brothers look like rocket scientists. You can't. It won't matter that it's all true, he'll think you're screwed up. He doesn't want to hear about this and neither would you if he were to drop a similar bomb the first time you were meeting. You would run like hell and rightly so.

Rather than lie, I told him that work was slow. I omitted the reason for the slow down was due to a situation resembling an ongoing remake of a Pedro Almodovar film, with many of my workmates becoming "women on the verge of nervous breakdowns." Not my line, but that of a colleague's husband, which unfortunately sums up everything.

My motto is, don't lie, it causes too many complications, and in my opinion not a good practice, karmically speaking. But obviously we live in a world where speaking the truth is not always the best option. So if you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to fabricate, keep it simple.

With that in mind, I told him my supervisor was out of town due to the passing of her father and we were awaiting her return so that we could get back to the business at hand. All true. It was too early in the evening to freak him out and he seemed like a nice guy.

So here's a question, when is it appropriate to tell someone you might be interested in about the bad stuff? What do I mean by bad stuff, you may ask? There's a plethora (love that word!) of things to choose from, bad marriages, bad childhoods, rotten children, bad parents or parenting, financial challenges, career angst. Obviously the list goes on. One doesn't have to be fifty something to have had loads of life challenges, right? We all have baggage. The question is how and when does one present the baggage to someone new so that it appears that we have unpacked it carefully? It's important to show our potential Mr. Right that we're in control, especially if you think this person is someone you might want to get to know. You don't want to present yourself as something that you're not. Been there, done that, and it's exhausting. Keeping that in mind, it's better to keep some eyebrow raising scenarios to yourself for awhile and sometimes longer.

A couple of years ago, I ran into a man I had dated briefly. I inquired about his two children, a son and a daughter. As I recall, he said his son was fine, thinking about going to college, considering his options. It's kind of a blur, because when I asked about his daughter, he said she was living in Mississippi, which was frightening enough. He then continued to tell me that she was working as an exotic dancer in a club. I didn't want to assume, but I asked, what exactly did that mean? He said she was working as a stripper. He didn't seem bothered by the line of work she had chosen for herself. It was more information that I needed, but it was an opportunity for me to once again, thank the dating gods and goddesses that I had dodged a bullet by not remaining involved with this man. I find the story fascinating, but was more than a little astounded that he would tell me the truth, particularly since ours had not been a long-term relationship.

Fortunately, I don't have stripping offspring, or any other kind to worry about hiding from future paramours. Eventually I will need to elaborate a bit about work, along with my past relationships, divorce, and who knows what else; if not with this man at this time, hopefully with another. And when the timing feels appropriate, I will give more details. But in these early stages of getting acquainted, it's best that he think I'm relatively sane.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What's the Difference?

I like the way this conversation is going; you'll definitely be hearing from me, my future boss said to me at the end of our initial interview, four months ago. Our meeting was ending after an hour, a very good sign. That meeting had been preceded with a one-hour meeting with my future colleagues, which had also gone very well.

I was on the phone to my friend Chuck, as soon as I walked out of the building. I told him that I knew I had aced the interview. That's great he responded. It's just like dating, I continued, when they're interested, they let you know.

Let's face it, an interview is like a first date. Most times, both are awkward, unnatural and uncomfortable situations. Say the wrong thing or make the wrong gesture and you're toast. When the interview is over and you ask the "what are the next steps in this process" question, if the response is "we're interviewing a lot of candidates and we'll get back you" keep looking. During a panel interview, where there were five people interviewing me, (universities are notorious for this insane process) I was so nervous I mentioned Elvis Presley in my answer to the first question. Don't ask. I don't know why I bothered to write thank you notes, it was downhill from there. To paraphrase the quote, they just weren't that into me.

After months of sending resumes, phone screenings, etc., I saw what I believed to be my job. It had everything I was looking for. I knew the moment I walked in and met with my future colleagues and boss, we were made for each other. I was giving the right answers, offering solutions to problems, laughing. No Elvis answers. Everything clicked, just like those special times when you go out with someone and it's easy, you don't have to work at it. There will be a second date.

So when Georgia, future new boss said the magic words "you'll be hearing from me" I felt like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar, proclaimed, you like me, you really like me! No more bad dates, I mean interviews. I would finally be able to leave my current crummy job for a new, and hopefully, better one. It won't be perfect, no work situation ever is. That's the beauty of being of middle-aged. You finally learn not to take seriously the BS that inevitably will raise it's ugly head when the honeymoon wears off.

After you leave the old bad job, you can't help but be a little excited about the promise of a new opportunity. Don't we all like a new beginning? It starts off well. You look forward to going to work again. Your colleagues and new boss are as great as you thought they would be. She tells you over and over how thrilled she is to have you on board. You are so happy to be away from your previous place of employment; hadn't realized how much the job had gotten to you until after you've had some distance. It's like looking back on that bad boyfriend and realizing you should have dumped him sooner. You kept him around because the sex was still okay or maybe he might say something amusing and you remember why you liked him in the first place. But really it's because no one better had come along and you didn't want to be alone.

But when you are in the new relationship, you realize the new guy is so much better than the old one. He makes you feel good about yourself. He's easy and fun to be around and most of all he likes you, he really likes you! Maybe he doesn't have much money, but he's working on it and you accept it, because he's like a breath of fresh air.

That breath of fresh air feels great until you discover that groovy new boyfriend has been living off of his parents for years and they have decided to cut him off. He doesn't want you know how serious it is, but after you do a little investigating, you slowly realize that you better not leave your toothbrush at his place. Which is a good thing because he's about to ask you if he can move in with you, just until he weathers this mild financial storm. Unfortunately what looks like a storm to him is really a Category 5 hurricane and tsunami all rolled into one.

And you think to yourself, damn, I've to get back out there. This isn't what I planned to do, not this soon. But maybe you weren't supposed to settle down with this one. Perhaps this was the rebound to get you out of your bad situation, giving you a little time to dust yourself off and while preparing for that really good opportunity that's still out there. In the meantime, you can hold onto the pauper boyfriend for a little while. He's not going anywhere, yet.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Don't Want An Old Man

You met Ted and Sylvia, a good friend of mine, a married one, I might add, said to me over drinks recently. They're very happy and met on e-harmony, she continued. I always think these occurrences are the stuff of relationship urban legend. Couples who meet through ads. That of course, was pre the Internet. But they meet through ads, on, e-harmony, etc., and are now living in wedded bliss. I know this is possible. A woman I worked with met her future husband on a few years ago. He lived up the street from her in the Castro. Unbelievable. Never ran into him before, but there he was online. She met one of two straight men living in the area. I attended their wedding, which was quite lovely. They have a child, bought a house and are very happy. Let me tell you, she dated some real winners. My favorite was the guy she had a first (and only date) with and he made her stop the car she was driving so could he run into a grocery store to pick up a few items. He couldn't understand why she was upset.

Remembering this and at my friend's insistence, I decided to take the plunge again and signed up for e-harmony, in part because I love her unwavering faith in the beauty of relationships. I have nicknamed her Charlotte, in honor of the always-hopeful character in "Sex and the City." For someone who has been as single as long as I have, it's good to have a Charlotte in my life.

Did you notice, I said take the plunge again? In the late 1980's and early 1990's I answered singles ads in the SF Bay Guardian. Not great. Someone suggested I place an ad to take more control of the situation. Did that. Got a lot of responses. I had no idea so many men in prison read the Bay Guardian. I went out with a few of them, not the prisoners of course. My favorite was the guy who was a member of SF's exclusive all male, Bohemian Club. He looked like a poster child for Hitler youth.

A couple of years later after a dating drought, I spent a fair amount of money for me, in 1994 dollars and tried video dating. I met a nice man and we began a relationship. We got engaged on Valentine's Day. That really is the ultimate in terms of romance, wouldn't you say? A few months later I suggested he move in with me. He didn't, but shortly after he began using heroin as a way of dealing with his chronic depression. This from a man who didn't smoke pot. Mind you he had many issues and deep down I knew we would never marry, but you can imagine my reticence in attempting something like this again.

Just recently another good friend, also married I might add, confessed that she had posed as me and signed up for an online dating service. It seems she was a bit dubious about my claims regarding the lack of available men. Some people might have been upset by this, but I found it very sweet that a friend would care about me that much. I'm still unclear how she did it, but her findings weren't good. In fact I think the word she used was "pitiful." I rest my case.

But somehow, Charlotte convinced me to give this a shot and so I have. Here's the thing. I'm getting tons of postings from a variety of men. I cast a wide net. Race doesn't matter. A sense of humor is huge, because we have to laugh at the world and more important, be able to laugh at ourselves. His politics must be liberal, anything else is a deal breaker. In my dating life I have gone out with exactly two registered Republicans, both of them black. What kind of cruel joke is this, considering the part of the country I live in? I mean really what were the odds of that happening? On paper they looked great, and each time I had visions of us being the ebony version of Arnold and Maria, but alas, I learned very quickly that there are some things that leave no room for compromise. I should have known the second guy was bad news when my cat bit him, unprovoked. A word of advice here, trust your pets and run all of your prospects by Fluffy or Fido before getting in too deep; the animals know.

I laid out a lot of criteria in terms of what I wanted, but didn't give an age range preference. I had no idea so many men in their 70's are looking for women in their 50's! All of a sudden I have babe status again. This is good, I suppose. I mean we want to be desired and feel like we've still got it, whatever it is or was. But I somehow forgot in my postmenopausal state that men "date down." A lot, but not all men want to date someone who is younger and often, they are looking for someone who is many years younger than they they are.

I can't date anyone 70 years-old. This means he was born before Pearl Harbor was bombed! I'm from the "where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?" era. It's not my intention to make light of national tragedies, but you get my drift. I would rather my first date ice breaking conversation touch on who did he like more, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, the Temptations or the Four Tops; not a discussion where it's Elvis v. Jerry Lee Lewis.

I give these guys credit and understand where they're coming from, because it is my belief that no matter how old we are chronologically, inside we feel at least 15 years younger than our actual age and I think that's perfectly normal. There are exceptions of course and some guys like dating older women, but let's face it, most 70 year-old men aren't looking for 85 year-old women, but a 55 year-old is a babe. Some women will revel in this and more power to them. But not me.

For a variety of reasons, I haven't done the dating thing in a few years and who knows what will happen or who I will meet. But in spite of the challenges, I'm willing to give it another try. I like to believe I'm a little wiser in my choices. I do know that if he was born at least after the end of WWII and preferably after Truman beat Dewey, I'll take a second look at his posting.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Red Flag Isn't Waving You In

I don't think he's the right guy for you, a friend said to me recently. She was telling me about a conversation her boyfriend had with a man I had expressed interest in. I met him at a conference and after that first meeting, we ran into each other at a networking meeting, a party thrown by a mutual friend, and later he magically appeared in my neighborhood. I took these as signs. Signs for what, you may ask? I'm not sure, exactly, but I believe that everything is a sign for something. Because he appeared to be intelligent, interesting, spiritual (doesn't that sound nicer than religious?) and attractive in a Michael Pollan sort of way, I asked him out for lunch, where we found out that we had common interests. In his email, he sent two hours after lunch, he called us kindred spirits. That was a sign to invite him to a party I was having, which he eagerly accepted. Another good sign, I thought because it means he not dating anyone. Sometimes I feel like the black Nancy Drew as I look for clues about a man's availability and interest in being involved with the opposite sex.

Since I don't date the way I did in my 30s, meaning rarely, when I meet someone, I don't like any grass to grow under my feet. Available men don't stay on the market very long, another female friend remarked to me. It's true. I know, they're not new cars, but I think you get my drift. When this man appeared in my life, after a long drought of not meeting anyone, I thought this could be interesting. As you can surmise, I haven't given up on romance. I don't want to brag, but I have a lot to offer. I'm attractive, well-educated, well-read, have a good sense of humor, blah, blah, blah. I don't need to be married, but it would be nice to share my life with someone worthwhile.

But dating or attempting to date in one's 50s is a completely different ballgame. There's no time to waste. After having relationships with men who have had unresolved issues with their mothers, drank or did drugs excessively, were great in bed, but never had any money, or in one instance, didn't want to have sex. In the last scenario, I still can't believe I put up with that for three frigging months! How many ways can you spell gay? He's one of the superstars in my "hall of shame."

I've gotten pretty good at spotting the red flags, finally. I don't make excuses when they are being waved in front of my face. One appeared in the fact that I hadn't heard from him since my party. Let's face it, if someoone's interested, he'll call you. I wasn't holding out a lot of hope and I've sense enough not to sit by the telephone or constantly check my email. That's the great thing about being middle-aged, you don't make time for BS. But when my friend told me she had some news about him, I'll admit I was very curious.

Why do you say he's not the right guy, I asked. Well, she responded hesitantly, he mentioned something to Bernard (her boyfriend) about his demons. Demons, I asked, not sure I was hearing correctly. Yes, demons, she repeated, starting to laugh. Did he go into more detail; did Bernard ask any specific questions about these demons, I asked? No she said, which is typical for guys, I would have gotten a lot more information about this. I looked at the receiver. He seemed normal, I thought. Then I started laughing and thanked her for telling me.

If this had happened in my 30s, I would have wanted to find out what I could do to help him with his demons. I know that sounds a little crazy, but it's kind of mind-boggling in terms of what some women will put up with in the pursuit of a relationship and I was no exception. I would have found the demons exciting, asked my therapist what he thought this all meant. If the sex had been good, who knows how long I would have put up with the demon thing. My libido had a funny way of keeping those red flags out my sight. Besides, we've been told that nothing is ever perfect in a relationship, right? One has to make compromises in the very best of them. That's all true of course, but compromise is one thing, demons are another dimension and dare I say, not a good one.

So I wish him well and maybe we'll be friends, maybe not. In the meantime, I'll keep enjoying my life, being grateful for my friends who love me enough to tell me the truth. And I'll keep holding on to the hope that the nice man is out there, demon-free.

Friday, January 29, 2010

This Wasn't Supposed To Happen

Losing a friend doesn't make sense. Especially if she was only 55. Remember when you were in your 30's and thought 55 was old. Funny what old becomes as one ages, isn't it?

You're supposed to grow old together. Have GNO (Girls Night Out) Share menopause stories, remedies for hot flashes. Go travelling together if you have the means. Look at old photographs of yourselves when you were younger. Maybe make plans to live together ala "Golden Girls." You're supposed to be able to pick up the phone to call with a quick thought. Or send that article from the NY Times that you know she would like. Those things are supposed to be a given. She's just supposed to be here. Period.

The problem is nothing lasts forever. The movie never turns out the way you think it's going to. And sometimes, sadly so, that good friend, the one you counted on, the one you were going to take another trip to Italy with, sometimes isn't able to stick around. Sometimes the unthinkable happens. And this person, who was there every day, is suddenly gone. And the loss is deep, unspeakably and painfully deep. It's as if you go to sleep with all of your body parts intact and you wake up and one of your limbs is missing.

You try to wrap your head around the loss. Hopefully you don't have regrets, that you should have said this, or beat yourself up about something you wanted the two of you to do, but kept putting it off. The regrets won't bring her back. And she wouldn't want you doing that to yourself.

Sometimes you look at a picture and remember what a good time you were having. "Hi kids" is what I often say as I get dressed or prepare for bed when I look at the picture of her, husband-to-be and me and I'm okay. But other times, I look at it, and feel an ache so deep in my heart that it hurts and I ask her, "how can you really be gone?"

I've lost both of both of my parents and I miss them every day. But as painful as that is, it is after all, the natural order of things. But losing a friend, a peer, is devastating. Nothing is the same and your world is shaken to it's core. Yet somehow life must go on. Those trite sayings are trite because they're true.

So I stumble through, trying to make sense of losing someone, who was a beautiful person and ask why did it happen to her? I share memories with those who loved her as much as I did. Sometimes I can successfully offer comfort to her husband, other times completely screw up in my intention to be helpful; always hoping he'll forgive me. And so it goes.

I offer no solutions about the best way to handle something like this, because there is none. You really have to take it one day at a time. There goes another trite, but true homily. All I can do is look back and treasure the time we had together. Be thankful that she put up with my nonsense and sometimes too harsh judgements of people, because she was one of the least non-judgemental of anyone I have ever known. I like to believe that because we were so close, that I'm a better person for having been her friend. I know it was an honor to have been a part of her world. And most days I can find comfort in that knowledge.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Do I Know and Why Should You Care?

I have been encouraged by a few friends and my writing teacher to start a blog. I have no objection to this per se, as those who know me well, know that I have many opinions on a myriad of subjects. Like that word, myriad? I don't play Scrabble, but I bet that word would get me a lot of points.

The thing is, it seems like all of a sudden, it seems as if everyone and his brother and sister have blogs. Have you noticed that? Is this the "tipping point" to quote, the author Malcolm Gladwell. Now that's fine, but who has time to read all of this stuff? Still, I have been told I have a unique voice and that people would be interested in what I have to say, so we'll see, right? What have I got to lose?

I am a fifty-something, hence the title, woman living in SF. Divorced for many years, no children, thank goodness. Nothing against them, I love my friends' kids, and I am a great godmother, if I do say so myself, but lets face it, they are a lot of work, if you plan to do it right and they are very expensive. Frankly, I am much too self-involved to be a parent and wouldn't have been any good at childrearing until after I turned 40 and then it was too late. Which is fine. I have been told that I would have made a good mom. Who knows. I sometimes feel guilty that I am not a Big Sister or didn't adopt one, but the work involved overwhelms me. I can barely take care of my cat! But I was watching a little of the "Hope for Haiti" telethon last night and there was little girl, an orphan who made my heart melt. I turned the channel as my way of dealing with that, but I digress.

I am gainfully employed, thank goodness for that, in a job I like, but it doesn't define me. But at a time when baby boomers have been decimated by the "great recession", I am very thankful to have a good job. Question, what's so great about this recession and why must everything have a brand or title?

I love movies, reading, cooking, dining out, travelling, writing and politics. I am blessed to have many good friends. I am a native of Oakland and proud of it. That city gets a bad rap. It's a shame, but Oakland has long had an inferiorty complex, being in the shadow of SF and all. It hurts my heart when I hear about the violence that goes on, because it's a great city and the people who live there know it. SF claims it's diverse, Oakland is true to its diversity. Maybe when they get a new mayor, things will be better. What a disaster that turned out to be. Way to ruin your legacy Dellums. You were a great congressman and should have put your ego aside, but then again he is politician and I guess he couldn't help himself. Sigh.

I think that's enough for now. As time goes on, I will tell you more about me as it relates to whatever I feel inclined to write about.