Six Point Five (6.5)

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from a guy on an online dating site. It was just a number, 6.5, and nothing else. Not even a hello. I didn’t get what it meant, so I looked at his profile for a clue.

 
I love that he put the ten (10) in parentheses, as though writing a lease or legal document.
 
It was then that I understood. He was rating me.
 
*************
 

I started online dating last December. I’d been single for almost four (4) years, but had only been on a few dates. My friends were starting to worry about me. I guess the pleasure they once found in my awkwardness around men was turning to panic. They urged me to try dating online as a way to get out of my comfort zone. I protested, and explained, probably in whining tones, that I like my comfort zone, and that it smells like cookies, and that no one ever wants to see me naked there. They rolled their eyes at this, and helped sign me up for Tinder. In the ten (10) months that followed, I also tried OkCupid, Match.com, and Plenty of Fish.

It was terrifying at first. It felt so inorganic. I had never been much a dater. Instead, I met men through mutual friends. We’d end up at the same event or outing a few times, interest would be shown, and then a date would happen. It’s just how I always did it. I was never comfortable getting hit on in bars, and never gave out my number to a guy unless we had a friend in common. Despite all this, I never lacked for dates, or boyfriends.


But the last time I was single and dating was over a decade ago. I was in my late twenties (20’s), and cuter. My badly broken heart wasn’t holding me back. There seemed to be more single men to choose from. It was less complicated back then, and much easier to meet people.


Online dating was also daunting to me because I have always been shy and awkward around total strangers. I’m incapable of small talk. Not to mention I have no idea how to flirt, and, in turn, have no idea when someone is flirting with me. So having dinner with someone I’ve never met, where there is an expectation of something romantic? I’d rather smash a tooth out of my mouth on a parked car.


At first, simply getting a message from a “match” was enough to make my palms sweat. The first time a guy asked for a date? I ignored him for three (3) days. Trying to return a message would leave me twisting in my chair, squealing and giggling, and asking my girlfriends to help me come up with witty responses. This, I’m sure, was a great source of entertainment (and relief) for them.


After a couple (2-ish) months I got the hang of it. I came up with my own witty responses. I even got brave enough to call men out when they were lame, or weird or inappropriate. Sometimes that was a boatload of fun (Darin, for example), other times it was just plain depressing. I learned that the normal rules of etiquette do not apply in the virtual dating world – for instance, it is standard operating procedure for messages to be ignored. I didn’t get this at first, but now I do. It is the gentlest, and easiest way possible to show that you are not interested.

Once I mastered some good practices, I got more comfortable. By nature, I am curious and open-minded, and it turned out that these traits helped keep me motivated and willing to engage. But these traits worked to my disadvantage as well, leading me to message much longer with people I knew would never be a match. But I was too fascinated sometimes to stop, and excited about my new found confidence with this format.


And by God, my eyes were opened to things I’d never known about before! I didn’t realize how naive I was. Kinks, and fetishes, and open marriages, oh my! Did you know there are men who get off on having their small penises made fun of? I didn’t either, but spent a couple weeks chatting with one. Once he assured me I wasn’t playing into some fucked up psychological defect on his part, I played along. I got quite proficient in making small dick jokes, to his great pleasure. I never met him in person. I never intended to, even though, fetish aside, he was a sweet, self-aware and sex-positive person. It was fun, but just a tiny bit too much for me. Pun not intended.


And speaking of sex-positive, I wasn’t even aware this was a social movement until someone used the term in a message. I’d like to think it’s because I never needed to put a name to my personal evolution from a repressed Catholic girl to a sexually healthy forty (40) year old woman. But as open minded as I think I am, I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought that people had fetishes because they were damaged in some way. I learned otherwise, after asking a lot of questions of the men who were willing to share their experiences. They were eager to explain to a listener who wasn’t judging, and I’m guessing that’s because they’ve been misunderstood and shamed all too often. 


I’m less judgmental of the open-marriage thing also. I don’t have much to report on it, other than I don’t recommend dating a guy who is married if you are single. It’s tough on the ego, even if the sex is good and they are respectful and cautious about not forging any emotional connection with you. Do yourself a favor and save that experience for when you are both in open marriages. I will say that I understand the model now a little better, and you can judge as much you want, but it’s more common and not as weird as you might think. I’m not saying it’s superior to traditional, monogamous marriages. In fact, I’m willing to bet it works just as well, so, um, you know.


I did actually date a few unmarried men without fetishes. But it didn’t pan out so well with them either. One of them gave me a three (3) month long, real life demonstration of what approach-avoidance behavior looks like. Approach (text a lot), Avoid (don’t text for a week). Repeat. I let the cycle happen a few times, but stopped it when it started to hurt too much, and because I was fairly certain he gave me an STD. When a good friend pointed out that his name rhymes with “STD Nightmare”, I laughed so hard through tears that I wanted to kiss her on the lips. But I waited until all the tests came back negative before doing so.


Another guy showed me that men, as well as women, can be Class Five (5) Clingers. He seemed sweet and passionate, and really into me, which felt great. But he wanted to fix things around the house after like, two dates. Then, when we were in bed one night he asked me to kiss him like it was our wedding night. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Don’t bother trying to figure it out, because it is like a fucked up Zen Koan that will “exhaust the analytic intellect and the egoistic will”, and it doesn’t matter anyhow, because he ended up being mean to me. I was stunned by his cruelty, but it barely penetrated. I’d never been on the receiving end of anything that harsh. I’d only ever been with kind, level headed, good men. This particular experience was, at the very least, a reminder of my good fortune in this area of my life.

********
My response. I know. Not my proudest moment. 

I don’t know why 6.5/Douchelord guy got to me so much, but I shut down the two (2) active dating accounts I had, and washed my hands of the whole thing. I guess I was already weary. I’d known for a while that trying to date this way wasn’t for me. For every decent man that sent a simple, sweet “Hello Louise”, there were thirty (30) other men writing things like “6.5” or “Did we meet on FetLife?” or “I like girls with a few extra pounds!” 

I’m just not made of the kind of stuff that can brush this constant stream of beastliness off. And I don’t want to be. The unkindness happens in the real world too, I know, but online, it happens constantly. And I just don’t need to be tested that much. I’ll keep my thin skin, thank you. 

There is good news though. Much to my relief I had a lovely, proper date with one of those good men recently. It restored some hope, even if it didn’t turn into anything. And I did learn a lot about myself these past ten (10) months. I gained some much needed confidence back. I learned that I have a sturdy backbone, and a healthy sense of self worth. Most importantly, I realized that I am ready to let someone into my heart again. Which I now see was the point my girlfriends were trying to get me to. And I love them dearly for this. 

More Food, Less Pain, 

xo-L

 

Scraping the Bottom

Do you see the dust & grossness?
Last night, at 10:30pm, I ate candy that I found on the bottom of my purse. Haribo Raspberry candies. They were not individually wrapped. They were covered in purse dust. And they were DELICIOUS.

My excuse? I was dumped 10 days ago.

My friends don’t want me to say “dumped”. They keep pointing out that I wasn’t in love with him. They remind me that I’d been talking since May about possibly ending it, and that he only got to it sooner than I did. But I’m going with the “dumped” story for now. Because it allows me to say things like this:

 “Fuck it, I’m gonna eat this unwrapped, dusty candy at the bottom of my purse.”

Truth be told, what I actually wanted to say last night was this:

“Fuck it, I’m going to the bar ALONE to drink a Scotch. Then I’m going to smoke a cigarette. Then I’m going to text men that are bad for me.”

But I didn’t say or do any of the latter. Instead I dined out with a couple of girlfriends, and went home where I drank a very small, very diluted Old Fashioned. Then I ate the purse-candy, drank a glass of water, counted my blessings, and went to bed.

So if you think about it, eating candy from the bottom of my purse is actually PROGRESS.

Redemption, indeed!

I mean, check out these low points, and I think you’ll agree:

Day 1: Cleaned my apartment. Ever sob while Swiffering? I did.
Days 2, 3 & 4: Very few calories consumed. Very little sleep. Walked 15 miles in 3 days.
Day 5: Croissant. Giant prosciutto sandwich. Chocolate cake. Cheese and bread for dinner. A whole bottle of Rose.
Day 6: Completed a marathon of Prosecco drinking in just under 6 hours.
Day 7: Omelette. Pizza. Beer. Gyro. Loukoumades. Sleep.

On that 7th night, I slept for 10 hours.

After that, things got better.

Yes, there has been pathos, and gyros, and pain. And purse-candy. But there has also been the relief and the excitement that comes with a fresh start. I’ve had more time for walks and meals with my girlfriends, who are thoughtful, and fair, and loving with their support. I’ve had more time alone too, which, as an introvert, isn’t an unwelcome thing.

And now it’s summer, and I’m single and if you’ve read my blog before you know how awful I am at dating. Which is good news for you, since I’m sure I’ll write about it, and you’ll get to laugh at the horrors. Sigh. At least the eating is always good.

More Food, Less Pain,
xo-L

Pie Theory

I was really wishing for something like this to happen to me last week:

I guess I was feeling a little lonely. And stuck. And discouraged by my enfeebling fear of dating.

I longed for simpler times, when my biggest fears (sharks & flying) were common ones, and fodder for so much laughter.

A whole decade ago, on a trip to the Caribbean,  Weather Girl & Mrs. G  got to witness my reaction to both phobias. Mrs. G, do you remember how I heard nothing when you told me you lost your license, (or was it your passport)? I couldn’t hear you because the PLANE WAS TAKING OFF AND WE WERE ALL ABOUT TO DIE AND I HAD NOT DISCOVERED XANAX YET AND IT WAS TOO EARLY TO GET DRUNK. And Weather Girl, do you recall how I couldn’t bring myself to snorkel? We both know I lied about the mask not fitting because I was certain THERE WERE FLESH-CRAVING SHARKS IN THAT WATER AND SURELY THIS IS HOW I WILL DIE. Nothing was getting me in deeper than my ankles.

10 years later, and the fear of sharks has left me (see this post). And for flying there is the best thing since the cure for polio, Xanax. But what is there for my fear of dating? Sedation and drunkenness are ill advised, I’ve heard.* Avoidance seems to be working well, but my Inner Therapist knows better, and is seeing to it that I stay aware of this issue.**

For now I’ll just stay ankle deep, but take baby steps toward feeling comfortable enough for more dates. Though I secretly hope old age and 17 cats come first. (Hmmph. Inner Therapist just said “Not funny, Louise.” So humorless.)

Like Xanax, but better.

Truth be told, I’m not a complete basket case. I did let a guy bring me some fresh, local peaches last week. All I did was mention that I like them. And he brought them to me. Which was very sweet, and not nearly as horrifying as I thought it might be.

The taste of those peaches made me forget my fears for a moment. I made rustic little pies with them last Friday, which were shared with my closest friends, and eaten without forks over the pans they were baked on. The longing for a guy to pitch woo outside my window had nearly disappeared by then. Any traces of it were erased by that moment, no doubt. Which only proves that I have the best friends in the world. And supports my long held theory that pie heals.

More Food, Less Pain,
xo-L

*And maybe experienced.

**And is charging me $110.00 for every 50 minutes I avoid it.

Never Again

Weather Girl knows the password on my iPhone. The combination of me choosing an obvious one, and the fact that the numbers part of her brain is over-sized, allowed her to figure it out in three tries. (She tried her birthday digits first…but then this is a girl who, if she could get the legislation passed, would make her birthday a national holiday.)

While I wasn’t looking earlier, she decided to do me a favor and, inspired by my most recent blog post, changed the contact name of a certain someone on my phone. When that someone called tonight, it came up like this:
When I grabbed the phone to see who was calling me tonight, the Garnacha we were drinking nearly came out my nostrils. 
I have to give her props. She is the primary recipient of all my dating stories, poor girl. The tears, the frustrations, the disgusting stories of late night make out sessions with strangers…she is the first one to hear it all. After 11 years of friendship, she knows me so well that she is almost always right about what I should do in certain situations. Lucky for me, she tolerates a lot. But when the stakes get too high for me with someone, she steers me in the right direction with the fewest of words. 
My favorite bit of (t-shirt worthy) advice to date?
“Short walk to get laid. Long walk to the therapist.”
And she knows the password to my phone.
Best. Friend. Ever.
More Food, Less Pain, 
x-L

NO!!

I brunched with a fellow single girlfriend this past Sunday. Over mimosas, we traded dating stories, most of which were giggle inducing tales of horror. It’s difficult to convey just how bizarre, and fun, and ridiculous it can be dating in your late 30’s/early 40’s. But she understands all too well, and we laughed for a solid hour at each other’s adventures.


Those of you who are in this very position understand. At this point in our lives, we care less about the outcome of a date than we did when we were in our twenties. We enjoy dating and flirting more, because we have a level of confidence now that can’t be shaken. We can brush off rejection with a refreshing ease. (Ok, so it may occasionally take a few tears and glasses of Cabernet before we can move on, but our recovery is quicker!) It’s clear to us that our dating woes are not real problems, and that there are bigger issues in our lives and in the world to attend to. And so we keep those “woes” in their box, and only wind them up and let them pop out for amusement purposes. Like when we’re drinking mimosas with a girlfriend who understands.


The biggest benefit of course is that we don’t waste a lot of time and energy on anyone that is not right for us.


On Sunday, my friend reminded me about her strategy for avoiding a certain guy’s phone call. She exchanged numbers with him late one night, knowing full and well that she would NEVER take his call. She had never met him, but he seemed harmless and fun, and so she danced with him. It wasn’t until they started talking that she realized just how weird he was. She admits she was tipsy and feeling too on-the-spot to just say “no” to his request to trade numbers. So instead of saying “no”, she saved his number like this:

GENIUS! 

She is the best, and I’m totally buying her mimosas this Sunday. 


More Food, Less Pain, 
x-L

NaBloPoMo Day 17: Blogging Sisters

I texted this to my sister Annie today: “Do you mind if I plug your blog in my blog?”

Say that out loud. I must have laughed for ten minutes about that sentence. I am a freaking wordsmith, I am.

She just started her blog last week. She says I inspired her, and I am honored by that. That compliment came just at the moment I was starting to feel really silly for posting every day for a month as part of National Blog Posting Month. I was feeling self-conscious about it, and hoping people didn’t think I was egotistic, or so presumptuous as to believe they’d read it every day. Knowing I inspired her made me feel much better about it all.

My decision to do the post-a-day project was based on wanting to learn more about blogging, and about testing my abilities as a writer. The blog, as a whole, was about finding a creative outlet for processing some of the funny and/or painful weirdness of life. It’s all been a great project for me. It’s helped me move on from some things in the past, and has given me a little more confidence to move forward with my life. So when my sister told me she started her own blog I got excited, because I just knew it could help her in similar ways.

Annie & I are the cutest ones in this picture. We’re directly across from each other at the table, in case you are of poor vision or have questionable aesthetic sensibilities.

Her blog, Florida Fishing and Hunting, is about (mostly online) dating in your 40’s after a divorce. Maybe you don’t know this, but dating at this stage in life is full of absurdities (sexting?), pitfalls (oh, I liked him), confusion (why didn’t he call back?) and luckily, hilarity.

Annie and I have a lot in common: we have the same mom and siblings; we look alike; we have eerily similar mannerisms; and we both have great racks. But we couldn’t be more different in our approaches to dating. I’m so impressed that she’s dating already. I’m impressed too, that she’s willing to share it via her blog. I am just barely interested in dating, and even if I was dating regularly, writing about my experiences in this tiny town in the smallest state in the union would surely leave me date-less for the rest of my years. Lucky for us, she lives in a big city that affords her some anonymity. I can’t wait to read more about her experiences. But more so, I can’t wait to laugh with her in person over her fishing and hunting adventures.

More Food, Less Pain,
x-L

NaBloPoMo Day 16: An Interview With Myself About My Egg Intolerance

Days Gone By
Is it true, Louise, that you’ve developed an intolerance to eggs?

Yes, Louise, it’s true. I think  it’s because I ate too many of them last year.

There is actually no scientific evidence to back that theory up. Do you often make up your own theories? I’ve heard that you also make up your own disorders and illnesses. Is that true?

Who told you that? I bet it was Weather Girl. She thinks I invented “land sickness”, because I had a terrible bout of it after a ridiculous cruise we went on. But guess what? It’s a real thing! I may be hypochondriacal at times, but I don’t make up disorders. For some reason my body just chooses the strangest ones.

Can you give another example?

Have you ever heard of ovarian torsion? I didn’t think so. Do you want another example?

Ew. No. Gross. Let’s move on. How has the egg intolerance affected your life?

Physically, not at all. I just don’t eat them anymore. Mercifully,(because I can’t imagine life without cake), I can have small amounts with little consequence. Emotionally though, I’m crushed. Eggs for breakfast has to be one of my favorite things in life. No one knows the pain I feel when they ask me to brunch, or offer me quiche.

Are you crying?

Maybe.

If you really have an egg intolerance then why did I see you buying eggs almost every week at a local growers’ market this summer?

Duh, because the guy selling them was the hottest farmer-intern in the history of farmer-interns. What was I supposed to do?

Um, ask him out? Did you?

No

Wait, did you even talk with him?

Once.

How did that go?

Not good. I said it was a “perfect day for a market”.

Wow. Are you always that smooth?

You shouldn’t make fun of people with my disorder. Flirting intolerance poses a serious threat to my health, and is no laughing matter.

Wow. Ok. I’m just going to leave that one alone. Do you have any parting advice for people who are also suffering from a very minor, non-life altering food intolerance?

Yep. Eat through the pain people. Eat through the pain.

More Food, Less Pain,
x-L & L