Goodbye: A Prelude

“Don’t break my red plate.”

“Don’t get attached to inanimate objects.”

“I have to; the animate ones keep leaving.”

Never before has that six year-old exchange held more meaning that in the past few months, especially in the past two weeks. Just a few days ago, eldest son, his partner, and their daughter (yep, my granddaughter) moved to Hawaii. Just today middle son left for summer adventure in Seattle and LA, along with participation in a dance intensive in North Carolina. Youngest son is taking driver’s ed: a definitive step toward many more goodbyes. He is also starting high school in the fall – yet another milestone that heralds more farewells.

We are in a culture that doesn’t like to say goodbye. Saying that word has fallen out of fashion. If you type in “it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later” into YouTube, you get over seven million hits: original songs, movie clips, poetic tributes, and inspirational talks. Move that search out to Google, and you’ll get 39 million hits.

We don’t want to say goodbye. This is prevalent in modern dating culture. It seems to be (and I ran this by people in several different age brackets) standard to ghost a person you don’t want to see any more. For example, you have a first date – maybe even a couple of dates – and then: Nothing. No texts, calls, emails…no returned correspondence either. If this happens to you, you have been ghosted. The person in question is disappearing; they don’t want to say, “Hey, I’m not really that interested” or “This isn’t working out” or the old standby, “It’s not you; it’s me.” No one wants to say goodbye in any form.

We can also see this reticence in the funeral industry. Like all industries, the funeral industry evolves to stay relevant. And, in the end, we all use some part of that industry. However, a desire to avoid the finality of a goodbye caused by death plays a role. A number of factors, including rising costs; creating new traditions; and a move away from traditional organized religion, encourage families not to view a funeral or other life-end memorial as a goodbye, but as a celebration of life. If we meditate then party, we don’t have to say goodbye.

Why? Are we trying to keep our options open? Are we thinking: if I don’t say goodbye, then the person isn’t really dead? Or my friend hasn’t really moved away?  Or she might still date me if I want to re-up later? What’s happening here?

Farewells are hard. I have divorced twice; I have had close contemporaries and young students, as well as beloved elders, die; I have been ghosted; I have moved. I have sent two sons to college and into life. Goodbyes are a part of all of life.

Goodbye is a contraction from the 16th century “God be with ye.” Seems appropriate. Child going to college? God be with ye. Not interested in dating him any more? God be with him. Dear friend passed away? God be with her. Yes, totally appropriate. And needed.

We need to be able to say goodbye to people. It’s an important skill. Saying goodbye well teaches resilience. It draws a line, and it allows those being left behind to adjust to an absence. Being able to say goodbye means that we can leave someone and move forward. When goodbye doesn’t involve the finality of death, it’s easier; but even when it is funereal, it’s a prelude to the days where we have to go on living.

I’m not saying goodbyes are easy. But, I’m afraid that the lack of sincere, sometimes heart-wrenching goodbyes are rendering us incapable of moving on in a healthy way. Sure, I cry when a son leaves to move 3915 miles away. I have cried when my loved ones have died. I cry with others when their loved ones die. I cried when I got seriously ghosted earlier this year. Shoot, I cry when a contestant gets eliminated on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In their various forms, these goodbyes help me into the next act.

Yes, goodbyes are tough to swallow. And, yes, sometimes the next act totally sucks.

However, goodbyes are not the end of a song; they are  the entr’acte.

Goodbyes are the prelude to what comes next.

 

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Gone to the Dogs

I did it again. I briefly ventured into the morass that is online dating. Interestingly, I saw many of the same faces, narrated by the same demands as I saw last year.

I read a good number of alarming sentences. “I spend a lot of time thinking about: the the-online-dating-ecosystem_50290b8d29fb4_w1500supper girl of my dreams.” No thanks, Hannibal.  There’s the vacuous: “I’m really good at: being with like-minded people.” No shit, Sherlock. How about Mr. Run-on: “Hi,my name is T, I’m divorced and am looking for a woman that will complete me,I enjoy the outdoors, fishing,I have a kawasaki 4×4 side by side to play in.” Paging Warriner’s First Edition. How about boring sexual innuendo man: “I’m really good at: wouldn’t u like to know?” No, no I would not.

Then, there’s the guy who messaged me who said he’s dominant, married, and just wants to chat with someone. When I told him to go chat with his wife he took umbrage to that. Still, he messaged me two more times; he was just begging to be blocked. There’s a host of scammers who can be spotted a mile away by anyone who took Linguistics 101 in college. And of course, those who use the same message for every email they send “Wasup?”; these guys occasionally get inventive: “Wasup? U dtf?”

Then, we have the screen names! Oh, the screen names! JoedaBoss. No, I was married to two of those. How about fordtuff? Nope, I’m looking for a date, not a car. Interested in papadan? I said date not dad. Niceguycr? If you have to say you’re a nice guy, I’m going to bet that you’re not.

image6So, yeah. The landscape is not that different than twelve or eighteen months ago. I closed the laptop and took my dog to the dog park. I walked around and Jasper frolicked with a boxer mix, two poodles of questionable parentage, a basset hound, and a host of mutts. Dogs of all sizes, shapes, abilities, and personalities sniffed each other, shared a water bowl, and ran around. They made friends. They grouped up and then dispersed. They were all happy. Oh sure, an occasional growl, but nothing that the breeze didn’t blow away.

Then it hit me.

We should take all the online dating sites offline and make dating parks in exactly the same model as dog parks. Large spaces to move around, sniff each other, and then move on or hang out a bit. We could walk around alone, in a pair, or in a group. We would all be required to bring a handler: you know, someone responsible to pick up our shit, make sure we behave, and put us on the leash if we act up. These handlers could walk a third of a mile track while the rest of us tried to make friends.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s a bar. Nope. This is outside. And only water allowed. If we have good handlers, they might bring training treats to give us if we come when we are called. And, at the end of the outing, everyone has to go home with their handler. No hookups allowed. Oh sure, you can exchange numbers or whatever, but that initial meeting is just that: a meeting. No overly contrived profiles. No screen names. No ridiculous cliches. No lists of demands. No promises of pampering.

Just people.

Meeting people.

Honestly.

 

 

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.