dating


I am not a poetry fan. Of all the visually digestible words there are, poetry ranks least in my favor and so, it is the rare poem that moves me from cool glance to lukewarm* interest. But this poem is an exception to my disinterest:

And okay, I will admit that a man with an accent from just about anywhere in the UK has me at “hello” in terms of my attention at any rate, but this poem speaks to my young self. The girl who whiled away whole weekends with her nose in a book. Any book. Who made projects out of hunting down everything written on every person, time period or historical event that caught her fancy and held it for more than the time required to breathe in and out.

And it speaks to the “girl” I am now, who can still be swept away by a fictional vista that only the author really can see for sure.

It’s not often that a work of fiction moves me to invest anymore. I am over reading the classics for literature’s sake. Literary narrative reminds me too much of university and I refuse to bow down to the notion that Jonathan Franzen isn’t long-winded, rather pretentious and not particularly original.

I like print wherever it’s printed. I’ll take my words carved neat with sharp points or wildly pontificating or with heart dotted i’s and j’s. As long as they sing arias that intrigue, inspire or infuriate me to thoughts I wouldn’t have otherwise had – I am good.

Women in my youth, but today as well, are not loved for our words – the ones we read or the ones we write. Still it’s mostly about our shapes. The size. The firmness. And the age. So a man who comes to appreciate the package because of what’s inside and not the other way around is a rare find, worthy of note and further study.

To all you girls who read then, take heart. There are indeed those who find the trait attractive, and rightly so.

*I prefer my world lukewarm for the most part to perhaps a shade about room temperature. Even tea is better “just right” unless I am nursing an asthma ravaged set of lungs or a sore throat, but even that has temperature limits.


Top Love Stories No 3

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Conversations with this and that family member over the last few days has prompted me to once again expound on relationships of the intimate variety. If I was only allowed to give one bit of advice on the subject, it would be this:

If you cannot love someone for who he/she is right now, the odds of his/her ever being anything other than a constant source of vexation and disappointment is close to nil.

Yep, the odds are that bad.

Here’s the reality. When we meet and feel attracted there is little by way of actual fact on which to base our warming feelings for this new person. We assess our attraction, add this to what little we glean through the rather stilted courting phase and then we make up the rest to suit our own needs. In short, we invent them.

For a while, our projection of who we think our new love is works fairly well for us. They accommodate by donning their best faces and putting on their formal dinner party manners and all is truly well. But the inevitable day will arrive when something goes wrong. In these less than perfect instances our mortal, non-super hero/model personae are exposed, and depending on the magnitude of the shock to our new relationship, we’re toast. Or we live to impress another day, and another day after that until we find ourselves living with, married to and possibly breeding with someone who isn’t at all what we’d hoped they were and who stubbornly resists all our attempts to cajole/shame/nag them into being the person we wanted them to be.

Disillusionment. Betrayal. Woe.

Well, this sucks, you think. How dare this person I love not be exactly who I thought he/she could be. And they had such potential too.

And here lies the problem. You never really loved the real person at all.  As Yoda might have said, “Never your mind on where you were. What you were doing.”

It’s not your fault. We are taught to believe that even the most unsuitable for us partners have “potential”. That guy who drinks too much? He’s just young. Give him a few years, a mortgage and a kid and he’ll settle down. Little Miss Negativity? She just needs positive affirmation. Mr. Proud to have Never Read a book in his life? Exposure to the classics is the answer. And on and on the excuses roll in and pile up like Tribbles until they spill out of the closets and we are wading through them.

Some people do indeed grow into their potential, but it’s usually not a future that someone else dreamed for them. These are folks who have goals and hopes of their own, and who don’t believe that tiny fairies  and luck are responsible for dreams coming true.

It’s a disservice to the person you love to not love them for who they are right now. Certainly, encourage him/her to grow and achieve – that’s part of what couples do for each other – but don’t fault him/her in the future if he/she hasn’t fulfilled the ambitious template you created out of thin air, your childish fantasies and some Disney princess movie you saw once upon a time ago.

And never forget that not living up to one’s potential is a two-way street.

*In case you missed my BlogHer post today. Here it is.


The trouble with people reading your blog is that you lose it as an outlet for meaningful thought and feeling processing. It becomes a venue for others as they search for

A couple dating in a cafe.

Image via Wikipedia

information, entertainment and  a place to share their own musings.

And I am not complaining. There was a time when few people even stumbled across this blog let alone came in search of it. Progress has its drawbacks as well as its perks.

Sometimes, however, I still feel the need to mindlessly run thither and yon across the keyboard, qwertying my way back to a more zen place.

Lately, the search terms have tipped decidedly in favor of widower dating queries. They read like lamentations. Desperate pleas for any scrap of insight, inspiration or tool to help the googler make sense of what is more likely fairly obvious but they just aren’t ready to accept.

Sometimes people who’ve been widowed are dating even though they aren’t ready, and sometimes widowed daters are just dating without any intent beyound spending a few hours here and there, sharing good times and possibly swapping bodily fluids.

The problem? Is the dead body in the room. The single and the divorced, who have only their perceptions of dating to work with, mistakenly place too much emphasis on the idea that widowed people are emotionally shell-shocked and that any hesitation, game playing or even hurtful behavior is somehow mitigated by this common grief myth.

The best thing a person dating a widow/er can do is ignore that fact. The widow thing. Just expect the same courteous, interested and emotionally genuine behavior that one expects of everyone they date. Be upfront about how you feel, what you are looking for and where your personal “crap” lines are draw. Remember too that dating is about getting to know someone not fixing them. Falling in love with someone’s potential is stupid regardless. A widowed man may seem like a great catch because he was a terrific husband to someone who is dead and can’t actually attest to the veracity of that anymore, but if he is a crappy boyfriend, odds are he wasn’t all that great of a husband either.

But here’s something I have noticed. Women tend to fill in the gaping holes in a relationship with narratives they will pull from the thin air if needs be but more often are variations on past relationships they have had with other men.

Don’t do that.

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And here’s why. Heartbreak might have common denominators but the most basic fact of being widowed is that someone died on you. Literally died. A person with whom you plighted your troth, shared with more intimately than anyone you’ve ever known so far. You had sex with this now dead person. Possibly made babies with them. They took all your secrets with them when they left. You will not see them again across a room or when you swap children on weekends or inadvertently run into them when they are out to dinner with their new love. They are dead. The dead molder or are scattered to the wind or sit like knick knacks on a mantle.

Relationships end. Painfully. The lingering can be bitter, filled with recriminations, animosity and torturing self-doubt. But relationships, though coupled with people, are not people. You do not go to the morgue to identify a dead relationship any more than you hold its hand while it sucks for its last breaths like a fish on dry dock. It’s heartbeat doesn’t gallop like a herd of frightened horses beneath your fingertips before fluttering to stillness like a butterfly smashed up against the windshield of a car at highway speeds.

The flotsam of a relationship is divided up with each partner taking his/her half. Dead people are not very helpful cleaning out closets, basements or alerting the post office to their change of address.

As much as you might be tempted to overlay your break up experiences onto your widowed boyfriend, it will be an ill fit, resulting in continued misunderstanding and frustration. And it’s the little frustrations that sink budding love and undermine existing love.

Here is what matters:

  • People who love you show you that love consistently through their actions
  • Falling in love with someone’s potential is like having an affair with your own reflection.
  • Being in love with “being in love” leads to disappointment and frustration for both parties.
  • Everyone comes with a past. Fixate on it and be miserable or live in the now and build a future.
  • While you can impress someone with your patience and understanding, they won’t necessarily grow to love you for it.
  • Make sure you are over your own issues before assuming your problems stem from your mate’s “issues”.

Love is actually pretty simple, but it’s the most simple concepts that are the hardest to grasp, or so I learned during the years I spent teaching 7th graders. Abel Keogh recently wrote a piece about trusting your gut. Love is love. It feels right and gets better over time because even the issues that come up as relationships progress become a part of the growth rather than detours or roadblocks that must be continually negotiated . Doubts that become nags are trying to tell you something you need to know. Don’t rationalize them away. Don’t assume that the issues that keep or kept you from moving on after your last relationship can help you understand his or that patience is actually an admirable virtue where romance is concerned.*

He loves you when he shows you day in and out without time-outs.

*I have to admit a certain curiosity about the whole “be patient with me/I need more time” excuse that my gender so willingly accepts and would love to meet the woman who turns it around and says “I could use a bit more patience as I learn to put up with your need to keep your late wife’s toothbrush and a bit more one on one time dating that isn’t a dolled up booty call.” But I am unlikely to ever find her.


Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

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Blogging, Tweeting and FaceBooking  buddy, Abel Keogh, who is the author of Room for Two and The Third, has published a book on widowers and dating. Pretty much everything one would care to know from the perspective of a widower and women who’ve dated and married widowed men.

I haven’t read the entire book yet, but when I do, I will review it here. Until then, the introduction and first chapter are up on Abel’s blog and I encourage those of you looking for information on the subject to check it out.


goddess.

Image by neur0tica via Flickr

Some women in relationships with widowers feel that the late wife could only be more perfect if she were perched atop a Gothic cathedral surrounded by a soft ethereal glow, skin glistening as the light catches the tiny sparkling points of light on her iridescent skin while cooling light breezes tousle her hair on its most perfect day.

It’s probably fair to say that the percentage of women on the planet who haven’t felt threatened or marginalized by their partner’s last wife is fairly small. Comparing ourselves – usually unfavorably – is what the female species does and does well, and we are encouraged in this by magazines, movies, television and the self-proclaimed relationship experts. The wife or girlfriend of a widower, however, can feel that a late wife is a rival of unassailable proportions because she is often only portrayed in her Sunday best. Death improves us all, or so it seems.

As I have stated in the past, I would have known that Rob’s late wife, Shelley, was a wonderful person even if I’d never heard a single story about her from him, the older girls, extended family or friends. And it was intimidating for a while. How do you follow wonderful? But, from the beginning, I endeavoured only to be me and not focus on the differences between us that sometimes made me feel like the ugly step-sister. She was her. I am me. For reasons known only to Rob, we both suited him just fine. And that’s where it begins and ends – or should – in any relationship. Worrying about how you do or don’t “stack up” leads to insecurity, anxiety, and misplaced jealousy.

Perhaps the problem is the idea that a man (or woman) can move on but still love a deceased spouse. I’ve heard some poor to bad analogies as to how this can be. There’s the 3 hearts. You. Your spouse. His Late Wife. My issue with this is that hinges on the fact that in our case, it would be four hearts and if three can be a crowd, four is bad porn. There are no extra hearts. There are memories, and everyone has memories of previous love, but the key word is “previous”. You take what you have learned and apply it now and archive the rest and if a person doesn’t or can’t – they aren’t really prime dating real estate.

In talking to Rob, I clarified again for myself a few things about men and how they think. They don’t really care about the guy who came before them. He had his opportunity, and now it’s their turn. They are really not prone to comparing because they feel that if you are with them now, then now is what counts most – which is why it is the rare man who will listen to stories about this or that past relationship without getting annoyed.

And that latter thing is important to note – annoyance – because women are schooled in listening and empathizing. We will listen to a guy go on and on about the woman who came before us because we think that raises us in our man’s estimation of our worth. We are so nice. So understanding. We don’t get annoyed – unless it’s to spout off to girlfriends and rain disdain down on the late wife instead of just telling our men “enough already” – and so a man might get the idea that talking out his last relationship while he is in one with us is perfectly okay.

Grief is different though.

No. Okay, maybe a little. But if your cage is being rattled to the point where insecurity and jealousy are becoming close intimate companions, then does it really matter?

Rob talks about Shelley. She is his reference point in the past. When he uses the term “we” and it’s not he and I, I know it’s Shelley. And so what? She was there. Rob spent all of his adult life before me with her. It’s not an “I” thing for him. And it’s not a big deal. She isn’t part of his past as a personal insult to me or as an obstacle in my relationship with Rob.

Here’s the thing. When you marry a man who’s widowed, you are accepting the fact that you didn’t come first. Yours is not the first proposal, wedding, child. You’re walking on ground that’s been traveled and possibly sleeping in a bed that’s been occupied before you. Deal with it. Because it’s reality and it’s your issue. You can let it eat you, or you can put it in perspective and work on building the life you want.

But there are shrines! Yearly memorial tributes! In-laws who constantly compare me to her! And he does nothing about it!

It’s still your issue. You still have to decide whether or not these things are going to control you or diminish you or even if you can live with them in spite of your Widower’s “awesome potential to some distant day being Mr. Everything”. It’s still your life, and people need your permission to make you feel less than entitled to it.

Which brings me to this point – your sparkly sister-wife isn’t the problem.  She’s not really there. Other people might be using her for purposes of their own and in doing so they make themselves problems, which you can choose to take on or not. And you use her to when you compare yourself, act on jealous impulses or whine like a high school girl because the fairy tale isn’t as Disney as society told you it should be. There’s always a root for an issue to be sure, but she’s dead, so she can’t be it.

If it’s your Widower, you speak up, initiate a conversation and come to an understanding. And just a fyi, doing whatever he wants because he’s played the grief card or you are worried about appearing “strident” or “shrewish” or “bitchy” or whatever other pejorative our culture has for women who won’t stuff their needs and shut up and take it – is not an understanding. Understanding is mutual.

If it’s family. And if you can’t talk to them – he has to.

It’s friends. Same deal.

But it’s not her and she isn’t ever going to be gone. If you are waiting for that day, you’re going to wait forever.

I like Shelley. I am in awe of the fact that her sparkliness lingers on.  She helped Rob raise two of the most fantastic young women I’ve ever known, who I love and for whom want nothing but sunshiny fields with filled unicorns.  Her influence is some of what makes Rob the amazing guy I love and who loves me. Who am I to begrudge her the place that she earned before I got here, and why would I do that unless I wasn’t sure of my own place?

Are you sure of your place? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you want, and do you ask for and expect to get it? You have control over precisely you. You can’t coax, empathize, sympathize, enable or nice girl anyone into being the kind of partner you expect for yourself. And it’s not your job to fix things for him but it is his job to be a 50/50 partner.

Oh, and you don’t get 100% from 50+50+50. Just saying.

Title courtesy of Norah


Love Love Love

Image by Gregory Jordan via Flickr

A good number of Google searches bringing readers to this blog lately have been searching for proof that their widower boyfriend loves them. Why they are searching the Internet for the answer to a question that only their widower can provide, I hesitate to guess though I bet I could.

How do you know if any man loves you?

Cher would tell you it’s in his kiss, but it’s in his actions. Does he act like he loves you?

With men (and women too really, the whole “Venus and Mars” thing is mostly based on stereotypical crap), words will only take a person so far if there is nothing concrete to back them up. Concrete as in action.

What’s the guy doing. Or not doing. That leads you to question his “I love you” in word or deed?

Or are you engaging in the centuries old female pastime of reading between a man’s lines like they were leaves at the bottom of a tea-cup? And if you are doing that – quit it. Now. Step away from the high school cafeteria table where you once giggled and obsessed about boys. It was okay then. You were learning about the whole relationship boy/girl exchange, but as an adult woman, the only thing you are ever going to get from it is a big fat bruised ego.

My advice, and it’s hardly revolutionary, is simply ask.

“Do you love me?”

“Are we an exclusive couple?”

“Where is this relationship going?”

And no, it’s not pushy or stalkerish or demanding to ask some very basic questions of the guy you are in all probability getting naked with on a regular basis*. If it’s not too soon to have regular “sleep over” dates than it is not too soon to ask questions when you feel that love is in the air and he, for reasons unclear, doesn’t seem to be feeling it too. You’re a grown woman and this is your life. Speak up.

But, his wife is dead. He’s grieving.

He’s also involved with you. Having sex with you. Insinuating himself into your life and your affections. Although I have been told – by widowed folk – that sex just happens because of the loneliness and pain of loss. It doesn’t. Sex never accidentally happens. Show me a “sex accident” and I will recant, but until I am offered proof, I will maintain my disbelief.

A widowed man who comes a courting, regardless of where he is in the mythical grief process, is perfectly able to deal with the fallout, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Cut no man (or woman) slack because they’ve been widowed. It’s no different from the divorced guy whose “wife screwed him over” or the never married guy who’s “afraid of commitment because of that girl who dumped him once … a while ago”. It’s bullshit excuses. The ones that people use because they know they’ll work. The stereotypical guy whose been too hurt to open his heart again routine has rewarded many a man with the cake sans having to bake it for himself.

A widower loves you when his actions say so. He will not retreat or play “now you see/hear from me and now you don’t” games. Pictures of his dead wife are not adorning his nightstand and his home does not resemble Miss Havisham‘s ballroom. He doesn’t cower under the weight of disapproval from children, in-laws or friends. And even if he has moments where the past intersects with the present, chances are quite good that he will never let you know it.

You will be his priority, his joy and future. He’ll have told you so in a thousand different ways consistently and happily. And he will have taken steps – in the words of Captain Picard – to “make it so”.

But if you are here because you are still not sure – and you don’t believe me – then ask him how he feels and what’s going on. You owe that to yourself.

*And if you are helping out with his children, practically or actually living with him – you are well past the point of having the right to know for sure.


Writing

A couple of wonderful women I know via my traveling Twitter are going through some tough times. They are both writers. One recently suffered a Lupus related TIA and the other has sadly suffered another setback with cancer. Despite the difficulties, they write on. The latter, a NASA physicist, has a book in progress. Her latest scans show more cancer. It’s in the bone now. I, unfortunately, know what that means for her, and she made the comment in her last blog entry that it was time for her to quit procrastinating and finish her book.

Procrastination and writing are almost synonyms. I know some folks who write to the exclusion of all but breathing, but I have never been blessed with such nose-grinding attributes. However, I have been thinking. A lot. About going back to book writing full-time.

With the yoga studio closing at the end of June and my growing disaffection for cause and current event blogging making it difficult for me to muster interest in my paying gig, thoughts turned back toward the memoir and writing “that book”. Or rather, finishing it.

I am still stymied by theme. You don’t just write a book about a section of your life for no reason even if it seems like that is precisely what memoirists do. As more than one literary agent, author and indie publisher has pointed out – an author should have a point.

What’s my point?

A happy ending is not good enough.

Well, okay, it’s pretty darn good from the personal perspective but why should anyone other than my children or Rob really care about what got he and I from A to B?

More than once, it’s been observed that ours is a compelling story and that I have, on occasion, represented it well in words.

That I can write isn’t at issue, nor is the fact that people love a good happily ever after love story. What I am still searching for is an angle. The hook. What’s my hook?

Widowers, let’s face it, are hot these days. Can’t throw a stone without hitting one in film, books, or television. There is something more compelling about a man who’s lost his spouse than there is about a woman in the same predicament. Probably because  a single woman/mom is considered so dime a dozen in North America that they practically wallpaper daily life.

And men make tragic figures whereas women are just victims. Who loves a victim?

No one.

But, getting back to my pondering. I have been. I even have the makings of a plan. The universe knows I have a book.

I don’t want to look back and wonder what it would have been like had I just gone ahead and done it. Published. I don’t want to regret it from a standpoint of having run out of time. The image of poor old Ulysses S. Grant banging out his memories in the last cancer ravaged months of his life to save his family from poverty has always struck me as the saddest way to leave life, desperate and down-trodden and in despair.

I’ve spent the last four years learning to write. Well. It’s time to do something with all the free words I’ve given away in the pursuit of my voice.