I was reading an interesting article on Thought Catalog entitled, “This is How We Date Now.” It was about frivolous connections, frivolous dates, and that such aggressive romantic screening can screen out real possibilities. I think the beginning part might be true for some, but not much for me. Perhaps because I am older, perhaps because I am geek, perhaps because I used to be a gamer–but that appears to be an article about the woes of beautiful people and how impatient some can be. However, I do agree that we adopt a public persona that sanitizes the sad parts and bad parts that we don’t want to talk about. And I agree that we all want true connection. Connection is a very powerful word for me.
I like Facebook for notice of births, weddings, and death. I don’t expect it to give details. I don’t expect to have deep friendships on there – but it can provide an introduction, which can grow offline. I like too much of the senses. I like the sight of a person not filtered by a screen. I like to hug and cuddle people. I like to hear a true voice and I like to smell the whiff of someone’s cologne, or shampoo. That requires an investment of time. . . my favorite memories are often of people visiting me at my home, or me visiting them at theirs.
Time is one of the most precious resources we have. It’s why with romantic relationships, I never do long distance because I need the physicality of presence. And it’s why with platonic relationships, the ones who I am closest to are often close to me in location. We just never know how much time we have.
Last year, when I used to take Rowan to her old school, we would have some time in the car together in the mornings. One morning I was driving behind a semi-trailer from a safe distance, and as it approached a curve ahead of me, it suddenly put on the brakes and drove off to the side. A cloud of dust came up from the gravel on the encroachment. I slowed down, and prepared to stop. I was thinking maybe a tire had burst, so I let the car creep up slowly. But as we got closer, we could see a couple of smashed up cars beyond the semi. At that point we turned around and took another way to get Rowan to school.
After dropping her off, I went home a different way. It passed within sight of the highway, and I could see it was already cordoned off. When I got to work, I was curious about the accident. I found out that heading east, a man was trying to turn left into a residential driveway on the cusp of the curve. A woman came up behind him, but she wasn’t expecting a stopped car, and the eastern sun was up and came into full view right around the curve. Momentarily blinded, she hit the car in front of her.
He was already partially turned, so when she hit him, it catapulted him into the opposing lane–where the semi saw him too late and crashed into him. He died on the scene. He was a 40-something from Mt. Horeb, had a family, two boys. Liked to coach their sports. Just like that, on a day like any other, he died. It was an accident all around that turned into a tragedy for that family.
And that’s the way it goes, doesn’t it? No money can bring that life back. His kids had him for a little while, not long enough. All of us, like him, can remember the past, but we don’t know our future. We never know when it will end. And maybe like me, you wonder about your purpose. It’s an ironic thing for me that I spent so much of my younger years thinking about hastening my death. Now I expect I will live to be a ripe old age, barring accidents. But of course, the price for living a long time is getting to witness the death, and sometimes sufferings, of our friends and family. I expect I will outlive my brother–I don’t smoke and he does. I certainly hope to die after my parents and not before–both for their sakes and sake of my children. It just seems more natural that the earlier you were born, the closer to now you will die.
I guess that owning up to your mortality can really cause a person to go into two extreme directions. One is screening your life for perfection, but then nothing is good enough. Nothing gets through. Or the other, being so open to potentiality–and fantasy–that nothing really good comes through.
It’s a balance. What is it that you really want? And is what you really want attainable? Or worth what you would have to give in order to get it?
Then sometimes, what you really want just sort of happens. In August, I went to a Conscious Life Workshop hosted by Steve Pavlina. I’ve followed his blog for years. The purpose of the workshop was to get clear about the kind of life you want to lead, and then you can screen what you accept into your life based on that. For example, an 80 hour week corporate job is not a good fit for me–I have too many other interests to devote that much to one thing. But my current 40 hour week corporate job, with a boss who never gives me grief about child care or sick days, is an excellent fit for me.
In the workshop, we also talked a bit about relationships. What is it that you really want? What is a dealbreaker? A divorced man is not a dealbreaker for me, but a man who would want me to have his “own” kids would be. In fact, I would probably prefer someone like me, divorced, who would get where I’m coming from and understand that journey.
Steve also talked about how he broadcasts his desires and is very open that he is polyamorous and a cuddleslut. So the first day, I emailed and sent a cuddle invitation. I can honestly say I’d never done that before – and was a bit afraid I would get rejected. After all, this is a guy I’ve only ever known through his blog, not the real deal, not the real presence, and he might be different in real life. Or, though I hate to admit it, I was bit afraid I might not be good enough. Not intelligent enough to match wits, not pretty enough to pique his interest, or not evolved enough to be a good match. I know I still have hangups sometimes.
But we exchanged phone numbers and planned to get together the last night. And the workshop was great, so inspiring, so full of great people at all stages of their lives. One day at lunch, going out with some new friends, one of the guys looked back and me and another woman I was chatting with and smiled. “What are you smiling about?” I teased. He replied back in all seriousness, “It’s just wonderful to be out walking with two beautiful women,” still with a smile on his face. I knew he was sincere.
Being open like that, to compliments, to connection, to understand that sure there may be a sexual undercurrent, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends, took time for me to develop. I no longer believe like Harry that “women and men can’t be friends because the sex always gets in the way.” Sex only happens if there is consent on both sides, but personally I like the friendships that have that extra flirty layer. Why deny it? People are attractive. I’m never going to sleep with all the people I find attractive–that’s not the point. The point is accepting what is–what is now. Maybe it will be something else in the future, but it doesn’t mean that today can’t be enjoyed just as it is.
And as for that last Sunday night, I had a great time. I had dinner with Steve and bunch of people, and then we went walking down to my hotel. We would bump into other workshop attendees who would ask, “Oh hey, what are you guys doing?” and I would answer, “Oh, we’re just going back to my hotel room to cuddle.” I had the most insane grin because it was truthful and just not what one would normally say.
So we headed back and spent a few hours cuddling and talking. That’s it, no sex, no weirdness–though I felt a bit astonished that it was just that easy. It was two people, enjoying a physical intimacy and an emotional one. It was, to be true, a fantasy of mine, to have a little bit of Steve time all to myself. And then he left and it hasn’t been anything more. Doesn’t need to be anything more. For me, it was all about being honest about what I wanted, and also being open to the idea that someone who could be my equal could feel an attraction on multiple levels to me.
Dating after being married for a long time feels a little like being in a time capsule. Who I was then is not who I am now, but there are still some fears. Am I still that awkward dorky person who says all the wrong things? If I want someone, does that automatically mean they won’t want me? And the people who want me, I won’t want back? Am I still really dumb about men? How come people think I’m attractive now? I was never an attractive teenager. Of course the great thing about men is that if they didn’t want to at least have sex with you, they wouldn’t even try to date you. Horribly crass, but refreshing in that you always know where you stand. I am at least attractive enough to screw. Good, good, at least I have that going for me.
I am feeling better these days about the balance of how I spend my time. I love my kids, and damn, they know they are loved. I love my friends, and I hope they know they are loved. I love my job, though some days, yes, I just throw my hands into the air. But hey, I have been given the opportunity to work on something I truly care about, so I’ll take the frustrations with the satisfaction of doing my best. I am working on accepting myself more and more–I have made a lot of progress, certainly. Though certain people can still undo me sometimes. Is it mature to admit that?
Being open to what you want, admitting what you want, can also bring more of what you ask for. The night of my cuddle date, I had three other invitations for cuddling. Alas, just not enough of me to go around. 😉