An Old School Blog Entry of Random Dating Thoughts. You’re Welcome.

When I was younger, in my teens and early 20’s, I used to have this picture in my mind of what my perfect person would be like. It wasn’t a visual image, just a feeling for who they would be and how it would feel to be with them. I made a list once or twice of what mattered to me in a partner. 

Later I would use this list to create a narrative around my dating life. This person was missing this trait and that’s why it didn’t work. This person had too much of that, which is why we broke up. It was all about lessons learned, refining my requirements, getting closer to that person as if I was hewing them out of stone.

Now I think that was ridiculous and pointless. An attempt to create order from chaos. These days the way I think about dating and love and romance is vastly different. I still believe you can learn things from relationships, but you can also have a relationship where you don’t learn anything and that’s just fine. It can be a thing you experience, a part of your life, a chapter in your story, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be more.

What I want from a relationship now is so much less than before it’s almost hard to believe. And yet, while my demands are down and my list of requirements is gone, I find myself completely unsatisfied.

I was in a book slump for a while this winter and I think maybe I still am. It’s not that I’m never happy with books, many of them make me very happy. But I quit so many. My patience for them is at an all time low. For every 10 that I start, I finish 1. Often my experience with a book lasts less than 5 pages. My pet peeves are more sensitive. No, I don’t want to read another book about rich people or the holocaust or a man’s midlife crisis or a prep school novel or a college novel or a story about friends who move to New York. (The list is much longer, but that’s a start.) I’m still reading just as much, it just takes me longer to find books I care about. And even when I look at the list of books I loved recently and feel that it is a truly stellar list, a little bit of me feels like there should be more there.

Where I am with books and where I am with dating are similar in many ways. Which is why I’m now wondering if this is part of some larger internal crisis of dissatisfaction. (Also the other day I had a playlist on Spotify and kept hitting skip track over and over and over again. So that’s three strikes.)

Now I try to picture the kind of person I could start a serious relationship with and I get nothing. I can no longer think of what they would be like. I admit that part of me feels that there is no one who actually fits the bill. 

I go out with people and it’s not like I have dating disasters. I just stay in this same place of unexcited, uncommitted, meh-ness. 

It’s also not that I don’t want it. I do. And my wanting of it has varied, so I can’t say it’s because I want too much or too little. The wanting goes in waves, up and down and up and down, a pendulum of my own emotions moving around in my head and reacting to each other. Whether I want it desperately or not at all or somewhere in between, there still isn’t anything that happens. My dates don’t get better or worse. 

When I start thinking about this, my brain just goes to the same lyric over and over again: I will never be satisfied, satisfied, satisfied. And I know this may in fact be true. (I wept all the way through “Satisfied” when I saw Hamilton and maybe that was for a reason?)

This is why I have also spent a lot of time thinking about being alone. This is the default setting now, I’ve settled into it. I may stay here, I may not. I try to enjoy the parts of it I like and avoid the things I don’t. It’s hard, though.

I read All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister’s excellent book about the rise of single women and how society is (and isn’t) changing around them. When I see things like this I feel powerful and strong and want to just stay on my own forever. There are so many things about being on my own that make me feel like I’m more fully myself than I’ve ever been. But I can’t seem to make this last. Inevitably I reach a point where I do not want to be alone. Regardless of how I feel most of the time, there is a thus-far undeniable piece of me who feels that partnered should be my default. I don’t know if that portion of me is right, but it’s definitely a squeaky wheel.

I’m working on finding the new normal. I want it to be well established. If I don’t find another relationship, then I need to be good where I’m at. I’m trying to get a better support system. I’m trying to bring more people into my life that I enjoy and that I can count on and that I want to support in return. 

I also remember clearly just how much love messes with your head. I want my normal to actually feel normal. I want my priorities firmly in place. I want my sense of self to stay exactly the same next time I’m with someone. I know that I don’t want a new relationship to replace other things in my life. I don’t want to lose a lot of sleep or reading time or writing time, and those things always go by the wayside in the past. 

Maybe my problem is that I’ve never had a relationship that looks like what I want the next big one to look like. I can’t sketch out in my mind exactly how it will work. It will be something I (or we) have to build from scratch and create through trial and error. And maybe with all that uncertainty it’s just silly for my brain to spend time imagining what kind of person could fit that mold.

I know I’m guilty of trying to create a version of what I thought a relationship should be when I was younger. I tried to create the moments and meaning that were supposed to be there. But that doesn’t work. I know that quite well. 

There’s no resolution here. No tidy wrap up. Just more of this same inbetween. More of the waiting and seeing. More work to make myself comfortable with where I am. And more reminding myself that I like who I am right now, I like it more than I ever have before, and it’s worth doing everything I can to keep growing and not let anyone pull me back.

Pandora’s Blog

Once upon a time, I kept an online journal. Back before blogs were a thing. 

I never showed it to anyone. A few people know about it, but only because it’s how we met way back in the day when it was nowhere near socially acceptable to meet someone in person that you only knew from the internet. But it remains a big, fat, hidden thing. I never showed it to my ex-husband or any of my friends. 

I wrote in it every day for 3 years, and then every so often after that. It is full of the mundane details of my day-to-day existence, but it also contains a look into my head during some of the most pivotal years of my life. It was anonymous and so I made little effort to sugar coat things. I wasn’t 100% honest. After a while when I had friends who read I thought more about how I presented myself, and there were things I’d hold back because I didn’t know how I felt or what I thought and I wasn’t ready to process it publicly.

But this blog? This is something else.

I still hold back. But pretty much everything else is different. I can’t write about people in a negative light. I’m certainly not anonymous. I try to write less about the daily details and more about what’s going on in my head as days and weeks pass. 

Oh, and there’s the fact that nearly everyone who knows me knows about my blog. 

I used my real name before it was an acceptable thing to do because I saw little value in hiding it. Eventually it would be found and I wanted to own it upfront.

It was easy to think that way when I wasn’t single. 

Now I am dating and the blog is one of those things that’s going to come up sooner or later. Preferably sooner. Because it’s a pretty significant part of my life and I try to be open about who I am. If I feel uncomfortable sharing my blog after a couple dates, it’s probably a sign that I’m not really comfortable with this person.

I recently went out with a guy a few times. I liked him. I thought he had the most potential of anyone I’ve been out with in over a year. And, of course, the blog came out. Even if I’d wanted to hide it, it was during my little viral spike so it was heavily visible. He called it “Pandora’s blog.” He asked how I felt about him reading it and I was honest. 

“There’s nothing there I wouldn’t want you to see,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things there that would make you uncomfortable. There’s several years of my marriage. There’s a lot about my kids. Ultimately it’s a mostly unfiltered look inside my head for the last 7 years. That’s a really long time. It’s a lot of information. And I get that it can be kind of terrifying to have access to all that.”

I know he looked at the blog but I don’t know how much he read. I didn’t get a chance to ask because he broke it off before it could really get started. I don’t know why exactly, and I have no reason to suspect the blog as the culprit. But it’s not impossible.

Dating has me a bit beat down, I admit. And knowing that any time I think there’s potential with someone I have to present them with my Pandora’s Box and let them decide how they want to handle it is not something I really enjoy. Some people are completely okay with it and very comfortable. It’s not like it’s been a disaster over and over again. But it’s always a thing.

I am honestly kind of flummoxed at how unsuccessful dating has been.

They say people can’t change, but I definitely have. 

When I was in college, I had a relationship with every single guy who asked me out with one exception. (And I still went on two or three dates with him.) Same in grad school, again with the one exception. After law school and my religious crisis, when I started dating for real, I ended up making a boyfriend out of the second guy I went out with. And after we broke up, my ex-husband was only the third guy I’d gone out with.

And yet, here I am, months and months of dates with only one extremely-brief semi-relationship to show for it. It is almost always me who puts a stop to it. If the guy ends it, it’s usually just because he beat me to it.

I don’t know what it is and why it’s so hard and why I can’t seem to find a spark anywhere. 

The blog certainly isn’t responsible for holding me back. Dating also makes terrible blog fodder because I keep repeating the experience of meeting nice guys whose company I enjoy but who don’t get me excited in the ways I really want to be. It’s a boring story, and it just keeps repeating over and over again.

Plus, writing about dating means there’s even more sketchy stuff that will make some future guy uncomfortable when he decides to sit down and go through my archives because he’s thinking about getting serious.

I’m feeling a little cursed, honestly. I don’t believe in that whole you-find-someone-at-the-right-time thing. I found plenty of people at the wrong time. And when it comes to how much it could add to my happiness, well there haven’t been many opportunities better than right now. 

I guess it does all save me from one thing: figuring out what to write about my first real relationship. Looks like I’ll have plenty of time before I cross that bridge.

Rewriting the Narrative

10 years ago my whole life was in upheaval. Anniversaries tend to stick around in my head, and the fact that I’m in upheaval again has made it stick even more.

It was a weird time. I’d just finished law school. I was waiting for my bar exam results to start my life as an independent, working, contributing member of society.

The last couple years of school I went through a serious crisis of faith but when I graduated I decided to start fresh and go all in at church. It was near the end of the year that my best efforts fell through and I figured out once and for all that I couldn’t live that way anymore.

And then there was Giles, my first non-Mormon boyfriend. Who was also 4 years my junior, which feels like eternity when you’re only 24. 

During just a few months I rewrote my entire life plan. It was terrifying. It was lonely. But I’m proud of how I got through that time because after I finally took a month or two to re-figure out the world, I decided where to go from there. And I’m still moving in the same direction a decade later. I figured it out. It stuck. It’s something I’ve never questioned at all. 

I stayed up for a little while last night re-reading my diary from the couple of months I spent in Florida with Giles. It was a tumultuous relationship, which I wasn’t used to. He was openly interested in me, which I wasn’t used to. And there was probably no future in it, which I wasn’t used to.

What I was used to: short, genial relationships with Mormon boys where I fell hard and immediately. I pined and waited and was too into them and started imagining our wedding and then got dumped. I can’t step into any of their shoes and say exactly why they dumped me, but the general gist was I wasn’t the girl they were going to marry and that was that. That’s how things worked there. 

This new relationship was so weird and different. I would say how I felt. Then I would second-guess myself and worry and feel like I’d ruined everything… but it’d turn out okay. So I would say how I felt again. Followed by worry, psyching out, etc. But it would be okay again. At one point I wrote that we were fighting and I wanted to say, “You don’t even know me,” but realized I couldn’t. Because he actually knew me pretty well. Because for once I wasn’t hiding myself and just trying so hard not to be dumped.

I didn’t fully get to rewrite the narrative on my dating life because we weren’t together long (I was only in Florida for 2 months) and after that I only had one more relationship (a bad one) before I met someone I decided to marry. So now it’s like I’m picking up a thread I dropped a long time ago and figuring out what to do with it.

I know I’m not who I was while dating from 17 to 24. And I’m not who I was when I was dating from 24 to 26. Who am I now? Well, I’m not positive. I can’t tell you exactly who I’m looking for. But there are a few priorities that I feel comfortable with.

  • I have to feel it hard. No half measures. (This is something I agree with thoroughly.)
  • I don’t ask for perfect, but I do ask for honest. Because I am no longer the girl who won’t say what she thinks or how she feels to please you and I expect the same from a partner.
  • If I think there’s a future in it, that’s enough. But I’m going to do my utmost not to write out that future too quickly. There’s a lot of things that can screw up your future that take time to show.
  • I don’t ask for perfect, but it needs to be mostly good. Like way more than half. Let’s say it needs to bring approximately ten times more joy to my life than it brings trouble or stress. Not that stress should be a dealbreaker per se, but I don’t have room for much more.

Not on the required list, but on the sure-would-be-nice list (which is crazy long) is to have someone get for-reals hung up on me. This has not really happened much for me, maybe not at all. I don’t really know why. 

Giles and I have been chatting recently, going back and re-processing the time we spent together. Those are always revealing conversations. “I was struck by you,” he said, about seeing me the night we met. I laughed and I’m still a little skeptical because I’d just cut my hair very short, I wasn’t exactly looking my best, and I doubt I was really projecting much of an attitude of confidence. 

I’d like to think now that I’m pushing 35 I have a sense of style and attitude I lacked then. I don’t, really, but I do have a sense of security and comfort with myself that I didn’t have then. Not that it’s doing me any favors in the dating department, or at least not so far. 

Mostly I’m just glad I haven’t thrown in the towel in frustration. I’m still slowly chipping away. I don’t have time to go out as much as I did a few months ago. But I slip one in every so often. They generally vary from okay to pretty nice. And so far I haven’t punched through a wall or anything because it shouldn’t be this hard and take this long and make me this lonely. But yeah, otherwise, you know, it’s not the worst. Today I’m feeling okay about it. And that’s something.

In Which I Respond to Things Other People Said On the Internet

I meant to make this a more regular feature after the last time I did it, but it’s been a while. My apologies. But it’s about all that’s coming today. I am SO GLAD I decided not to do NaBloPoMo, aka write on my blog every day for the month of November. I would be well past the chore phase and into hating it with every fiber of my being. Now I just feel kinda guilty for phoning this one in. Especially after I’ve really felt inspired to blog better the last few days and get back to my roots. It’s coming. Soon. Until then…

What You Might Not Know About Single Moms

My most recent article at HuffPo went up right next to this one and it made me crazy just to see the headline. Because this is ridiculous. This article is every single stereotype about single moms that exists in the world. It is nothing anyone doesn’t know. 

It’s also ridiculous and overgeneralizing and just makes me want to throw something at the wall. This idea that single mothers are only looking for serious relationships? Yeah, let’s look at every single mom in every book, movie, television show, etc. They’re all so cautious, hesitant, putting their kids first. It’s one of the reasons I don’t write about dating nearly as much as I want to. Because I like going out. I want a real relationship but I’m not looking for someone to be a dad to my kids. I’m looking to find a connection. I don’t know who these men are who find single moms as easy prey. They’re certainly not anyone I’ve seen, as the vast majority of messages I send online don’t get answered. People won’t even go out with you once. 

Oh, and I would LOVE sympathy. More and more, I’m finding myself surrounded by moms talking about things I can’t relate to. It’s kind of like going back to the early years with Graham where I was living a completely different life with a nonverbal toddler going through daily therapy while everyone else was having fun and going to the park and setting up playdates. My concerns aren’t the same as theirs. My daily issues aren’t the same as theirs. I feel like many of my day-to-day concerns are only safely shared with my other single mom girlfriends because no one else gets it. 

Not everything in this article is terrible, but the parts I hated I hated so strongly it’s hard for me to form coherent responses. 

Jerry Seinfeld Thinks He’s On the Autism Spectrum

Complicated feelings, I has them.

On the one hand, when we refer to self-diagnosis casually, it reinforces the idea that an autism diagnosis comes easily. That it’s something people are getting whenever their kid is a little awkward. (And that belief is alive and well.) I feel the same way about ADD, Bipolar Disorder, and other diagnoses that people say, “I’m a little bit _____________” or “I think I’m ____________” without any consultation or real consideration.

Autism is more than social awkwardness or introversion. Keeping that stereotype going is frustrating.

On the other hand, when high profile people with a diagnosis come forward, it’s empowering and inspiring. I have several friends who were diagnosed with autism as adults and seeing what amazing lives they have and what they’re capable of gives me hope for both of my kids. Autism is still a diagnosis that needs to be demystified and relate-able.

Women With Kids Are More Productive Than Everyone Else

Not a surprise. I really want to write a post on invisible tasks, especially when it comes to considering custody agreements. I had the kids most of the time for a good while and was hesitant to go down to 50/50 even though I thought it’d be good for the kids. I knew that I was still the default parent in so many ways and that their dad didn’t necessarily realize the things I did that I’d still be doing that would make 50/50 custody not really evenly divided. Luckily we got that point across and changes were made. Mostly it’s gone well, but the juggling can be tough and most mothers I know, whether working or not, end up taking on the vast majority of their household management.

But actually I have little to say about this article. Except that there are many times as someone whose life is just about as busy as it’s possible to get that someone tells me they’re busy and I want to laugh in their face. Lately it’s been particularly amusing as we’ve done some interviews with college-aged kids at work and, well, they talk about college as if it is the most overwhelmingly busy place in the world. Ah, youth.

I honestly want a t-shirt that says, Please don’t tell me how busy you are. 

Also I want a Book Riot hoodie. They are coming soon. I will have one.

6 Reasons

Things are heavy around here. It’s sucking me in. I feel frustrated or overwhelmed much of the time. 

I need a distraction. 

And I’d like to request a distraction that’s also cute, funny, and a good kisser.

Look, I know it’s not appropriate female behavior to go around saying you want a boyfriend. It’s uncool. It’s needy. But people, I am NOT cool and I AM needy. Might as well just lay it out straight. 

When you’re not even living paycheck to paycheck, but getting by on a lot of extra work on top of the paycheck and the hope that it’ll all be enough at the end of the month, you can get lost in a perpetual feeling of anxiety. It’s hard to break out of it.

Breaking out of it requires a trump card kind of emotion, one that overrules any other stuff in your life. There aren’t a lot of these. Grief is one, it turns the world gray no matter how much color is in your life. But I’m hoping for that flush of new love, that feeling after you’ve met someone where your brain takes every free moment (and plenty of non-free moments) to remember that this new person exists, that they’re wonderful, and that they’re yours. 

Lately my brain takes these free moments to feel frustrated or sad or hopeless or angry or bitter or something else staunchly negative. My brain is stuck there. 

So I need a boyfriend. 

That’s the first reason:

1. A distraction.

There are more reasons, of course. So many.

2. Adult conversation. 

It’s not as bad as it was when I was home with the kids after Tessa was born, when my only conversation consisted of small talk with Graham’s therapists or a quick word or two with the cashier at the grocery store. But my only talk is at work, and home at the end of the day is quiet. So quiet. There is no one to talk to about the victories of the day, big or small. No one to tell funny stories. No one to commiserate with when things go badly. Social media helps, but it’s no substitute for a real talk.

3. Fun.

Yes, fun would be good. Fun that isn’t a way to keep the kids busy. Fun that isn’t for the benefit of someone or something else, but to be enjoyed by me. By us. That would be good. I miss fun. My occasional bouts of fun are still fun, but when you go out with a friend who’s going home to their husband/wife/partner when it’s over I can’t shake a tiny bit of bitterness. Like I said, the negativity is really stuck in my head and some fun would be a good way to help shake it off.

4. New stuff.

New people bring new stuff. They have different interests, they’ve read different books, they’ve lived a different life. I could use a life that isn’t mine to pull me out of this stupid hole I’m in. I love that early stage when you’ve still got so much to learn about a person, when every new detail you learn is fascinating, when every date is like a lesson in New Boyfriend 101. 

5. Chemistry.

Or in other words, the kissing stuff. Even a boring marriage where you exchange physical affection without thought is still one where you’re getting touched, held, kissed, etc. I get hugs from my kids, snuggles as they sit on my lap, and it’s wonderful. But it would be nice to get that from someone who’s grown-up sized, and someone who isn’t asking me for a snack while they’re cuddling. It’s just different. And the kissing and… everything else… is so exciting at the beginning. It feels like you’re eating one of your favorite foods you haven’t had in years, where it’s so familiar but it’s like you’ve never had it before and you never want to stop.

That sounds good.

6. I Deserve It, Dammit.

I do. I may have kids, but I’m a catch.  I am totally date-able. I’m funny and smart and not bad to look at and I’m even feeling kinda hot what with me losing 12 pounds and all. 

There are probably 100 more reasons, 1000 more reasons, but I think this is enough. I’m primed. I’m ready. I’m worried I’m too ready, that I’m jinxed because I want it. I send messages and get… nothing. I haven’t been picked up by someone in real life since grad school. It’s been quiet and I’m antsy and I’m starting to get down.