The Year of Dating Dangerously

Last night I attended a wedding. As one might expect, a couple of us single women chatted about meeting and dating eligible 40-something men. I wrote the following piece before I moved to Iowa, but it carries relevance today for anyone on Match, Eharmony, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, or anything else that purports to find a happily ever after for you.

First things first: for my mother’s peace of mind and clarification.  There was never any real danger – physically or otherwise.  And, secondly, it wasn’t really a year, more like seven months, on and off.  Finally, as a point of reference for all readers:  I was not looking for an oath-swearing-jewelry-and-flowers-giving man.  Someone to go to the movies with, have a meal and a good conversation with once in a while, and make out with, if I had actually stated a goal, which I didn’t.

When the ink is dry on divorce papers, there’s something about that finality that can make one think, “Well, shit, let’s party.”  I didn’t think that.  I thought, well, ok.  And left it alone for a while. As summer approached, I decided to look around on several online dating sites.  Friends tell me that the online meeting thing is no longer taboo, but just,again to clarify: I work in a high school, so I meet married fathers of my students, colleagues who are married or involved, and teenagers.  I don’t go to bars, and the whole grocery store cliche is just that. So, what’s a single woman to do?

At different times this year, I used two of the more highly advertised paid sites (an ad at every SINGLE commercial break, if one is watching a “Sex and the City” marathon).  The sites themselves were fine, and the people were just that: human beings.  Vulnerable, heart-broken, happy, frustrated, desperate, proud human beings.  There was nothing “wrong” with any of the men I went out with.  Certainly, there were those with more pronounced quirks, and it is from observing and being on the receiving end of said quirks, that I offer the following for any man engaging in online dating:

  1.  Be honest, but don’t give a list of your bodily imperfections (undescended testicle), your ex’s problems (threatens you physically on a regular basis), or your sexual demands before we even meet.
  1.  It does not entice me to go home with you if you offer to smoke weed with me (I am one of three people in my generation who has never done that) or take Viagra.
  1.  If we proceed out of the site’s blind email system to texting, talking, and private email, do not send me pictures of anything below the waist.  It is not pretty, and no, I will never, under any circumstances – even if I were dying of some dread disease that could only be diagnosed through a photo of “down there” and you were the world’s leading expert on this disease and could cure me by seeing such a picture – reciprocate. I’d rather die.

Now, I have friends who have or are engaged in online dating who are far more humorous than I on this topic.  Other friends are invested and really believe they will meet their soul mates and that Dr. WithThreeNames can help them do just that.  I wish you all the best, but I have signed off.

Still, it hasn’t been for naught.  I have met some pretty interesting people, and they may show up as characters in short stories or spoken word poems in the near future.  And, there are exactly two men whom I met that I like, and ta-da, although we are not dating, we remain friends.  My sister would say that being friends is better any way.

datingSo, in the future, I’ll not be on any dating websites.  I’m thinking about training for a triathlon, continuing to write short stories and poetry, visiting with my friends of 20+ years, trying to survive hot yoga without passing out, participating in writing groups and poetry readings, and hanging out with my sons (best dates ever!).

Still, I have several thoughts about “dating” or meeting men online that keep recurring as I reflect on that year of dating:

  1.  FALSE BUFFET: The concept of a buffet is that there are many dishes to try, and it is better to have a little bit of everything than a lot of one. In dating it goes like this: so many people to try!  They are all here for my sampling!  Well, no.  One may start communicating with someone…perhaps someone with whom one has common ground and attraction…and then, it is easy to get distracted by a new dish that is put out on the buffet.  One may not be as interested in the newer one, but simply because it’s newer, one is intrigued.  This leads to a viscous cycle of never striking out beyond the superficial “sampling” with anyone.  Ultimately, if one stays at the buffet, one meets a lot of people in a shallow way, but still goes home alone, and with a cloying aftertaste on the palate.
  1. THE BOOK STORE FRUSTRATION: A situation articulated by a friend of mine. Being on dating sites is like searching for something new to read. You are looking for a really good book. A book you can enjoy and spend time with, and really savor the depth of narrative and the character development.  Then you walk into Advanced Auto Parts. They may have books there, but those are not the books you are looking for. You are continually disappointed.
  1. THE JAPAN EFFECT: After dating various men (different ages, professions, and interests), I had a friend ask me how things were going. I was at a loss. There are rules and approaches and dos and don’ts. It’s ridiculous that one can’t really be just a human being and interact with human beings. I did not understand the landscape of online dating. So, I responded, “It is like  being in rural Japan.  I neither speak the language nor can I read the signs.”

As I told my friends when I signed off the dating sites,  I will be staying a little closer to home in the foreseeable future.

Married, single, or somewhere in between, I wish everyone love, light, and happiness.

Join me.

 

Giants Among Us

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Earlier this summer, middle son and I undertook a road trip from Georgia to Colorado to Iowa. He volunteered to find interesting things along the way. We saw: the world’s largest easel, the world’s largest spur, and the world’s largest ketchup bottle – which, incidentally, is for sale.

Son also incorporated a series of civil rights stops on our route. That began in Atlanta at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Park site. I had been there years ago, but the history and admonitions tugged on my sleeve a bit harder this year. We were then in St. Louis to see the arch, but it was there that we visited the Dred Scott monument because it was the Gateway City where the court case which bears his name was filed.  On our way toward Kansas, we stopped in Ferguson. Yes. That Ferguson. We visited the Michael Brown Jr. plaque that was recently installed near where he was killed. The next day we were in Topeka at Monroe Elementary; that visit coupled with the Equality House right across from Westboro Baptist Church and hours of road tripping in Western Kansas (it’s still really flat) gave me a lot of time to think.

Our job here is not to make things more difficult for each other. Humans are not meant to construct giant obstacles in each others’ paths: from slavery to social exclusion, from institutionalized racism to politicized sexism to we are experts at enslaving others’ lives and spirits. The burgeoning presidential election seems to bring this into everyone’s newsfeeds in every form possible. It’s demoralizing.

People, we are meant to support and help each other. Why do we spend so much time down-talking people’s plans and dreams? Is there something organic in human beings that makes us want to spread horseshit about others? What makes us want to make others’ lives as hard as possible? I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lifetime of accusations and hatred tossed around this summer. It’s truly awful.  And, some of us do it in the name of tradition. In the name of our schools. In the name of our political parties. In the name of our churches!

Hosts of philosophical answers, from thinkers much more erudite than I, would answer those questions in any number of ways: Ego. Testosterone. Manifest destiny. Mental Illness. Intellectual blindness. Self-constructed spiritual superiority.

America has always been big on – well, big stuff. We like to go all out. From family reunions to rodeos to theatre: it’s hard to find a country that will outdo America in BIGNESS.

So, after this summer’s trip, I have an idea: how about we all – in our own corner of the world – create big opportunities for anyone around us? What if we create big social interaction by visiting with neighbors or having a neighborhood picnic? Might we create big comfort by reaching out to those who are hurting? Could we clear a big road by standing up for those different than we are?

I have to say, those things are being taught – even insisted upon –  in our schools as part of community building and anti-bullying programs. Many adults are asking their  kids to do what they refuse to do when considering politics or religion or sexual orientation or race. What if we tried to come together in similarity instead of encouraging the dividing lines to do what they do best?

Wouldn’t it be great if our kids could visit future sites dedicated to the biggest most diverse happiest neighborhood?

ShrinkAs a nation that loves giant things, we seem to be focused on giantizing our differences and problems, and the election rhetoric isn’t helping. C’mon, people, let’s work on shrinking the hate and obstacles and  focus on super-sizing the acceptance, tolerance, and understanding.

Join me.

A Slow Down

george carlinLast week my youngest son became eligible to get his driver’s permit. He didn’t get to do it on his exact birthday because we are waiting for his birth certificate to prove he is…alive? At any rate, we will be darkening the door of Iowa DMV in the near future. My nephews and niece will be eligible to follow him every other year for the upcoming eight years. Once my son actually opens the DMV booklet instead of planting himself in front of his TV show du jour, he will want to take the test, and he will probably pass it.

I am worried. Really worried. Not because of him – he will learn slowly (He will drive slowly past corn fields and down rambling country roads.) He has a car picked out that he wants for his 16th birthday (Good to have a dream, son.) And, he is already asking to pump gas for me. (He hasn’t asked to buy it yet, but you know, baby steps.) Still, I am worried.

I’m worried because this summer I traveled over 3500 miles and because I drive every day as a part of my job. And, the vast majority of American drivers are self-involved assholes behind the wheel.

I have a few pointers for everyone on the highways and byways. Perhaps this will assuage my occasional flare-ups of road rage (i.e. “What the actual fuck – is he going around the world to the left?”  or “Is she waiting for a particular shade of green?”); perhaps this will prove instructive; maybe you will just shake your head in commiseration; or, perhaps we might just save a life.

1.      Watch your turn signals.

1a. make sure you use them

2a. make sure you turn them off when you don’t intend to turn

2.      The left lane.

2a. acknowledged: it is a passing lane for faster moving traffic

2b. not acknowledged: if I am driving at the speed limit and passing someone who is traveling below the speed limit, I am not obligated to exceed the speed limit to accommodate you

2c. back off

3.      Watch your speed.

3a. speed limits – love them or hate them, but at least know them (you really should follow them – yeah, I sound like a nerd, but I’ll own that)

3b. do not expect others to slow down or speed up just because you’re too lazy to take off your cruise control

4.      Center Line and the Shoulder

4a. choose a side

4b. pass as needed, but the the center line of any road is not a third lane

4c. the shoulder is not a third lane, either – relax

5.      Food

5a. only if you absolutely have to

5b. set it up before you leave a stationary position

5c. we would rather you arrive with ketchup on your tie than have you in a ditch or worse

6.      Trucks and Motorcycles

6a. trucks: yeah, they suck; but, they are giant and can’t stop fast, so respect the truck.

6b. motorcycles: yeah, they’re insane sometimes, but I’ve heard more than one medical professional call them “donorcycles,” so respect the cycle.

7.      Texting and Social Media and Telephoning and Personal Grooming

7a. Texting: no. No. NO.

7b. Social Media: no. No. NO.

7c. Personal Grooming: no. No. NO. (Seriously? Get up 15 minutes earlier.)

7d. Talking on the phone: only if absolutely necessary, preferably with Bluetooth

As a person who has put over 30,000 miles on her car this past year, I know from whence I write. I want us all to drive wherever we want, get there on time, and be happy. I want us all to be alive.

Those of you that know me, you know that my sister died in a single car automobile accident years ago. Since then, I have had four friends who have lost loved ones in car wrecks.

To rephrase Tommy LaSorda, “Driving is like baseball, it’s the one who gets home that is safe.”

Join Me.