So my last post, The Mouths of Babes, got me thinking about men and dating. Being unemployed and all I have time to think about stuff like that — really mull it over and come to all kinds of interesting and fascinating conclusions. Such as what I want in a relationship and what I want in a man. What traits are important to me? What are the deal breakers and what can I overlook? What about leaving the seat up on the toilet? Is that okay? Then I imagine my usual middle-of-the-night-stumble to the bathroom, planting myself on the toilet without turning on the light, and that a cold wake-up splash on my backside might not be acceptable. Hmmm.
I think about all the guys I have dated over the years. I’ve dated A LOT. I’m no Carrie Bradshaw and certainly not Samantha Jones but I have explored dating relationships with different types of males. I was actually a late bloomer and really didn’t start dating until my senior year in high school — my peers had been “going steady” since grade school.
College was where I really got the opportunity to meet a lot of different types of guys: the preppies and fraternity boys, which were the boys I typically dated; the “GDI’s” or Goddamned Independents — guys who were “too cool” to be in fraternities or involved on campus; the hipsters and new wave looking guys; and the jocks. Yeah, lots of stereotyping went on in college. Just like The Breakfast Club.
I had a “Stalker Boyfriend” in college who was clean-cut, preppie, wealthy, and intelligent. He also regularly showed up at my waitressing job at the favorite “21 bar” and would get quietly drunk. Then he’d lean against the wall and stare at me, eyes boring into me, watching every move I made, flinching and glaring if any guy smiled or spoke to me. The other waitresses thought it was hysterical and the bartenders regularly offered to throw him out. I just ignored him.
What was really endearing is that he would periodically BREAK INTO MY CAR and leave roses and romantic notes on the front seat. I broke up with him over the phone. I guess I’m lucky that he wasn’t really insane or pathological, just borderline nuts. He’s now married, with two children and lives in Europe. I assume he’s happy and regularly breaking into his wife’s Fiat.
So when I think of traits that are important in a mate, I dutifully cross of “stalking”. That didn’t seem to work out so well for me.
My “serious” college relationship was with the BMOC — Big Man on Campus. Everything about him was golden: blond, beautiful, gorgeous smile, athletically-gifted, funny, smart and popular. We were quite the item. We dated for over a year. Then, on one of our last nights together, I excused myself from his bed to freshen myself up in the bathroom. When I returned, he was wearing my sheer black pantyhose…sigh.
Strike out cross-dressing.
I did give online dating a whirl a couple of years ago. Here is how I described the Man of My Dreams on my profile: You are self-assured, successful, a head-turner, on top of your game, magnetic, balanced, fit and like strong women. I’m not looking for any hotheads, not that I’m one but I am a firecracker (in an appealing way
That description still resonates with me today but I realize that I left out something very important: Character. If you can’t trust a man’s character, his integrity, and know that he has your back, then he isn’t good enough for you.
It goes without saying that I bring integrity and character to the relationship, that I have his back. I won’t resort to lies just because they’re easier than talking about what’s on my mind or what concerns me. If you have that inherent trust, and the love, and the chemistry, then everything else sort of falls into place. It really is that organic and all the movable parts fit together.
Do I sound like a hopeless romantic? I smile because in many ways I still have the awe and wonder of my childhood when it comes to romance, and hope, and the future. However, I don’t want to see that future sporting my black pantyhose…
I woke up to a day shrouded in clouds, the ground covered with newly fallen snow and a layer of pristine, sparkling ice, even freezing my back storm door shut. It was with relief that I remembered it was Saturday and turned up the heat and ignited the gas logs in the fireplace. Hot coffee in hand, I decided that a bit of plumbing the past was in order.
I ventured into my basement and set about pulling old files and folders. Soon, I had my past spread about me: years of journals and assorted notes and scribbles. As I began to read, the years fell away. Essays I had written in grade school and high school; diary entries from my teenage years; quickly scribbled notes from school chums; journals and notebooks from my years of chronic illness with Graves Disease and throughout my lengthy recovery.
I focused on the earlier stuff. The girlish scrawl, the earnest voice that spoke from those pages, the words from a young mind brimming with imagination and hopeful dreams for her future. I remember being that young girl, so at odds with her surroundings and the other kids. At times my environment felt jarring to me and I just wanted to escape.
There is a theme to my early writing, of feeling isolated, peculiar, lonely and different. If I had stayed on the sidelines, I probably wouldn’t have had as many problems with the other kids, but I was outspoken, fierce even, and participated passionately in my favorite classes.
But I received my due when I would get on the bus, often sitting alone, while the other girls would whisper and snicker about me just loud enough for me to be able to overhear. I dressed funny, my hair looked stupid, I wasn’t “cool”. I couldn’t wait to get home after school. My mother’s cheery, “How was school?” was often received by my cool and deliberate “fine.” Yes, just fine. Peachy. I wanted to fling myself off the nearest cliff.
But I also remember thinking I was meant for better things, and I looked to the Future as if it was a true beacon of hope. Grade school and even high school weren’t going to go on forever and I pinned my hopes on blossoming at 16. To me, that was going to be my turning point, when I became beautiful and all the boys would want me and all the girls would clamor for my friendship.
At the core of it, I was simply a lonely young girl who wanted to connect with someone, who wanted to be understood, who wanted to be loved.
The summer after my junior year in high school, something happened. I trimmed off about 12 pounds with daily bike rides and had my hair coiffed in a buoyant Farrah-like ‘do. I returned to school that September head held high.
And. Nothing. Changed. Oh, yes, I received admiring looks and glances, and one of the “nice” popular boys asked me to a party. But the long-established cliques were impenetrable and when we attended, barely anyone would talk to me, such was the penalty for trespassing.
That was an epiphany for me, that year. I knew I would never let another person make me feel less than who I was at any given time. Fuck them, fuck them all.
Something splashes on my hands and the keyboard and I realize that I am crying. Even now, the pain can reach out and touch me. Sometimes, I wonder why I am writing about this stuff, it seems so useless, like wallowing in the muck. But I’m aware of having a different perception, one of surviving the pain and moving on. In many ways, having a solitary childhood prepared me for adulthood and the challenges that I faced therein. I am resourceful and determined. And I know through experience, that things do get better, and that my tears are as much tears of compassion and release, as of pain.
A dear friend of mine suggested that perhaps this project will be cathartic. I like the analogy of peeling away the layers of an onion until you reach the core. Until you are naked and exposed. I’m feeling very vulnerable with my writing but also excited and passionate. It’s been a good journey so far.