Jay’s Lesson

Continued from Consider The Possibilities

Sometimes life doesn’t want to give you something that you want. It’s not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve more.  ~ Unknown

A few days ago I talked about dating again and mentioned meeting a great guy on an arranged ‘lunch date’. His name was Jay and we had a second date, and then a third. We met for lunch a few times as it was a better in both of our schedules. He had four girls but they were mostly grown or almost there. He talked about them like they were amazing, making me believe that he was an amazing dad and that excited me.

There’s always a question when dating after divorce about when to introduce the person to your children – if ever. I wasn’t especially excited to have the girls meet Jay but they were curious and so I didn’t wait long… they knew we were seeing each other and they knew I liked him. I told them the basics, what he did for a living, how many children he had and what I knew about them, and I shared the general details of how we spent time together. It seemed to be going pretty well and so I invited him to come out for dinner. Awkward!! There we sat, at the dinner table that we used to share with their dad. I don’t know exactly what they were thinking but I thought it was weird… to have a different guy sitting there having a conversation with my children, someone other than the man with whom I had been sharing them with for twelve years.

He was pretty cool though… as the father of girls, he knew all the right shows – had seen and could talk about – The Gilmore Girls. He was friendly and conversational, knowing just how to fit in and when to sit back. They thought he as ‘weird’ – as any teen / preteen would typically think and perhaps he was – a little.

We continued to spend stolen pockets of time together, each of us taking turns driving the fifty-minute span that separated us. We took a weekend and spent it on a boat that he shared with another family member and I learned that he took fish oil supplements. Good for him – bad for anyone that got close enough to kiss him. I’m not one hundred percent that it was the fish oil, perhaps it was another issue, but that man’s perspiration was one of the most unpleasant smells I’ve ever experienced. I’m not convinced he wore deodorant and even if he did, I’m not sure there was a perfume strong enough to mask his personal scent. I don’t mean at all – to be unkind, simply descriptive of an attribute that was marginally manageable.

I struggled as to whether or not it would be a deal breaker for me. How do you tell someone … they smell and not be rude? How can they not know? Is it highly intolerant or critical of me to ‘not’ date someone because of an odor? I realized it wasn’t all of the time and hadn’t spent enough time with him to decipher what prompted or initiated it.

When I graduated with my undergrad, he slipped into the mix of celebrants – in fact, he was front and center… something that I was really questioning at the time but didn’t know how to ask him to ‘sit back’. Sadly, I don’t have any photographs of that day without him in it. He escorted me home that day to my surprise party and consequently, met many family members and friends… in retrospect – it was Way. Too. Soon.

Jay was unapologetically himself and I loved that about him. I envied his ability to be authentic regardless of the circumstances and I made a note to investigate that quality / feature about myself. It was a new and exciting proposition for me – to just be me. He didn’t apologize for his peculiarities or idiosyncrasies – he accepted himself – completely and I noticed. I liked that about him. I wanted to be like that.

Jay wasn’t divorced yet and since – at that time – neither was I, it seemed to be a bond between us … our ‘almost’ ex-spouses were somewhat thorns in our environment. We had each been ‘separated’ for over a year but the divorce piece was complicated. He began introducing me to a couple of his daughters as ‘a friend’ and then braced for the backlash from their mom. We had custody of our children on the same weekends so that worked, but there is SO MUCH to navigate when you are forced to maneuver through a dozen different personalities just to spend time together. We were attempting to finalize our plans for the upcoming July 4th weekend – whether or not to take all the girls someplace, my kids, or his, and it was just too complicated. He was firmly planted in his community – and I in mine. To that extent, we were either unable to unwilling to compromise. We were on the phone one afternoon and he was unambiguous with his words “I can’t date you anymore, it’s too hard”.

He tried to explain that there were just too many complications with his wife, his girls, my kids, the distance… I recall being somewhat stunned as there was no warning. I had never realized that his skin was that thin – or perhaps (giving him the benefit of the doubt) there was much more under the surface that I had not been privy to. In either case, I could feel myself shut down instantaneously … here it was again – rejection. Oh well… at least I hadn’t let my heart out – had I? Nope… it didn’t hurt, not really – I was just surprised. I hadn’t loved Jay. I realized that I hadn’t even let myself consider loving him. It was fun to be liked, to be wanted – for a while.

I walked out of my bedroom after that phone call and into Sara’s room. “Jay just broke up with me”, I told her. She looked at me with big eyes, wondering and waiting for more… “are you ok?” she asked. “Surprisingly… I’m good – it’s all good”, I say.

_____

On the drive home from the mountain I thought about Jay – what purpose did Joe have in my life? Why did we meet? I loved his authenticity. I needed to consider why it was such a strong element for me and how could I embody more authentic-ness? (um… duh – in every way!) I realized that Jay demonstrated that I could still get butterflies. Good to know. I also noted that I could be found attractive to a man. As crazy as it sounds, for someone with low self-esteem, coming out of a marriage to a man who preferred the company of other (many) women – this was somewhat of a revelation for me. I was desirable – at least to a guy who smelled like fish oil. I considered Jay practice but also acknowledged that dating sucked. There were so many expectations, hopes, disappointments, and the potential for rejection that it took more courage than I thought I might have for now.

I filed away the introspection about dating and organized my life. It was time to start grad school. I was excited with the idea of learning more.

Dating OMG

Continued from Accomplishments

Online dating is just as murky and full of lemons as finding a used car in the classifieds. Once you learn the lingo, it’s easier to spot the models with high mileage and no warranty. ~ Laurie Perry

In the twenty-eight months after discovery day, I graduated from college, I settled an estate, prepared Sara for college and managed to start dating a little again. After fifteen tumultuous years with Hubby, I had sworn off ever – EVER – falling in love again. I was finished with men and was not shy about announcing it for the first year after I first saw all of his emails. By the end of that first year, my resolve began to soften as I realized that my celibacy left me feeling lonely and in need of adult companionship. I had wonderful friends who included me in most every activity and yet, I lived in a world of couples. Even walking through the mall on a Friday night had me lonely for that whole ‘family’ thing that no longer existed.

I lived in suburbia, a rural area surrounded by soccer fields and subdivisions of four bedroom homes. There weren’t any single men, at least none that I knew of. I wasn’t into the bar scene, nor were any of my girlfriends and so meeting someone that might offer a sense of camaraderie seemed impossible, or at the very least, improbable. I decided to try an online dating service. I registered on Match.com, it seemed to be the most popular at that time and I had hoped that paying a fee meant that people there would be serious. I spent countless hours perusing profiles of wanton men who couldn’t spell and or thought that watching football was, by itself, a sport. There were others, professional men who were seeking female counterparts but I soon realized that most of the people in my age group were seeking younger women.

I reached out to a few people with a ‘wink’ and received a few in return. I had a brief conversation with one of the fellows through email but didn’t have the nerve to take it any further. Online dating can be excruciatingly detrimental to one’s ego, perhaps more so than face to face dating as even an electronic ‘wink’ goes ignored. There is no way to produce a multi-dimensional description of yourself that embodies a relative snapshot of who you are. As such, we all take a chance that the person reading the profile information will be left wanting more information but too often, we turn away because there just isn’t enough there to be enticing. I wasn’t looking to fall in love, just hang out with someone who was also divorced.

At the time, a friend of a friend who had been widowed was also doing some online dating and we had an opportunity to exchange stories. She told me about running across a profile of someone in the community whom she knew – someone who was married. She told me as a measure of caution so that I would be sure to ask the right questions and exercise prudence. It made me wonder if Hubby ever had an online portfolio while we were married… she went on to describe a few deplorable dates from her personal experience, one where a guy showed up, handed her a list of characteristics he was looking for and asked if she was open to complying. She said she stood up and walked out and I sat there with my mouth open, listening to the stories, not sure that I wanted to pursue this much further.

Another friend had tried a personal dating service, It’s Just Lunch – where someone interviews you in person, takes photos, and then calls you with a scheduled blind date lunch.  It seemed harmless enough but it was grossly expensive. At least, I told myself, that the people there were probably more financially independent than perhaps those who were on the internet. In the spirit of YOLO, I decided to give it a try.

I actually went on a couple of those dates. The only thing that I had to do was show up and have a conversation. The first guy was nice and tall but super thin. He explained that he was a marathon runner and asked if I was athletic. I’m pretty sure he could tell just by looking at me that I wasn’t athletic, each one of my thighs was the size of his waist. If he stood in front of me, I would have spilled over on each side. I instantly felt insecure and all of those old mental thoughts about not being good enough because of my body shape came flooding over me. I knew right away that I wasn’t willing to face that challenge every day and so, I said goodbye to number one.

The second date was almost as strange. We met for lunch and had a really nice time. He was seated when I arrived and didn’t stand. I thought that was odd… I recognized immediately that I expected a certain level of courtesy, of manners. I was taught to stand when being introduced.  Strike one.  I recall having a nice lunch, building hope that this may turn into a second date and then we stood to leave… um. No wonder he didn’t stand – he was at least two inches shorter than me – which was weird because it was one of the major deal-breakers that my interviewer knew – I wanted a man taller than my 5’10” frame. I was instantly disappointed but tried not to show it. He walked me to my car – very gentlemanly of him – and then tried to kiss me; on the lips. Ugh! First date buddy! Strike two.  You should have asked – strike three, I thought.

My interviewer explained that she didn’t have many people to choose from in my geographical area and so she had to compromise on a few of the ‘items from my desired list’. We agreed not to ignore my top three… tall, professional, and younger than 50.  I didn’t think that was too much to ask.

Date three… really nice guy handsome, tall, 46, and within an hour’s drive. I was instantly attracted until we began talking about family.  It seems that he didn’t marry until he was 40 and had been widowed when his wife passed away during a complicated childbirth. Well, we had widowhood in common. And then, the dropped the bomb – he had 4-year-old triplets. YIKES!! So sad really, but no way… I was absolutely not, raising someone else’s kids; not for twelve more years. Holy cow, I would be almost sixty before I had any freedom – that was a deal breaker that I hadn’t thought I had to specify.

I took a break, letting my interviewer know that we just weren’t on the same page. I wasn’t necessarily looking for love but I was looking for a good match of compatibility. It was a couple o f weeks later when IJL called and scheduled another date… “This one”, she said, “met all of my criteria”. Ok, now I was excited. I met Jay for lunch and while he wasn’t the most handsome man I had seen, he had all of the other qualities that were important to me. He was tall, charming, smart, professional, the right age, the right demeanor… it was all off to a really nice start and we agreed to have dinner next.

I drove home like a giddy teenager. I amazed me that no matter your age, meeting someone new had the same impetus that it had at any other time in life. I was anxious to call my girlfriend and share the experience with her. Sherry had been a friend for a number of years, she knew Hubby and me professionally and somewhere along the line, our business dinners morphed into pleasure as we enjoyed getting to know she and her husband personally. About two years prior, I had connected with her because of business but somehow connected – woman to woman – and we became personal friends. Since then, she had been one of the most supportive people in my life, always there. Together, we imagined all kinds of possibilities that more dates with Jay might offer.