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.