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Posts from June 2008

Looking for Love on Craig's List: Nice Guys

I just returned from my fifth date in about two months (with four different men). Yeah me! Well, not really. They were nice guys, but not one of them offered the faintest spark in me—or, it seemed to me, in themselves. They seemed bored with who they are. Bored or tired, perhaps, all heading into or in the midst of their midlife crises. And for me, a newcomer into their lives, it does not offer a welcome environment.


Tonight’s date was with Andrew. Now why would a 54-year-old man who is losing his job and his apartment in two weeks and who is contemplating moving out-of-state in two weeks be looking for love on Craig’s List? And does he really expect some damsel to save him from his distress? He is a nice guy, but what am I supposed to say to a man who asks me if I think he should shave his head? And when I asked him why he wanted to shave it, his response was that his hair was so gray. Again, what am I supposed to say? I, of course, said the wrong thing. I said, then you will need to shave your beard, too. Immediately his hand went up to his goatee and stated hesitantly, it’s not so gray. No, of course it’s not, and it’s not. But I really didn’t feel the desire to be exposed to his turmoil. I mean couldn’t he at least try to reel me in before firing down on me his absolute sense of dejection? Luckily my car was close by and it was about to rain. I walked to the car in a very weary state. But, at least I had a good dinner (I paid for my meal, not wanting to feel that I had added to his burden in any way).


A few weeks ago I had a date with Mark. I am pleased to state that upon learning that his home situation is even worse than mine, I knew to run run run! But not after we had a great conversation comparing war stories. I wish him all the best with someone who will offer him the compassion he deserves. Unfortunately, I need a break from giving and would like to be on the receiving side of care and compassion for a change.  


Now, last night’s date was with Terrence, who is single. Single as in never married; some men say that they’re single which is a euphemism for divorced or separated; apparently some men think if they ignore or deny their past they can invite a better future into their lives. Whatever.


It’s not that Terrence’s being a caddie in any way had a negative impact on me. He had dropped out of the rat race, either temporarily or permanently, and was thoroughly enjoying his stress free life. What got to me was that he said that on his last day off he went fishing with a buddy. I don’t know, for me he just seemed to be disconnected from people, from the world, from the things that—to me—make a life worthwhile. Maybe he’s looking to meet the woman with whom he can connect, but it seems that a woman would not change him, just get in sync with him. I don’t want stress in my life, either, but I do want to feel that I am having an impact, that my life is not merely a place-holder.


And then there is Frank, with whom I had two dates. Frank is another forty-something, never-married man. We had a nice first date, although I did have the feeling that the exchange of stories was as deep as our conversation would get, I still decided to give him a second chance. On date number two my intuition was proven to be as sturdy as ever. When I commented on having eaten wonderful Egyptian hummus with beans in an Arab restaurant in Jerusalem when I was living in Israel, I received a nod. Not a question about life in Israel. I mean everyone—everyone—asks if I was afraid living there. And I always—always—comment on how I felt safer there than in New York. But nary a word or comment from Frank. A few minutes later I commented on having met an acquaintance in a coffee shop that morning, who, it turns out, has a husband who is the apparent twin of my ex-husband. Again, the nod. Not a question. Not an inquiry. Okay, maybe he doesn’t want to pry, which is fine for him, but not for me. I have no desire to be with someone who exhibits no curiosity, for whom life seems to be about which restaurant to eat in and what to order.


So here I am. Home alone. After all of these dates I realize how hard it really is to find some one who is on the same path and current as I am. I don’t despair of finding him, I just hope that I won’t be so bored by the whole dating process that I end up boring him away.


* * *


Note: All names have been changed to protect the truly innocent (men who did not know that they were going on a date with a woman who blogs about her life).


* * *



It's Finally Over: Scenes & Images

During my marriage I had not embraced as fully as I would have liked the freedom of interacting with people and traveling. So much of who I was was defined by the two of us, and what we did or did not do, or what was wanted and then compromised away. Now I like to think about doing the things I want to do, without considering anyone else’s foibles and interests. Daydream about:

·         Places to go

·         People to meet

·         Things to do

·         Things to create


* * *



Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Twelve


I am by nature an introvert, a quiet person who does not speak much until comfortable with the people I am with or until something just bursts out of me, needing to be expressed—generally interrupting someone, so sudden and strong the desire to express myself becomes. This could stem from my thinking that everyone else has more interesting and insightful things to say; or my feeling that I have to wholly agree or disagree with something to state it and identify with it; or my not wanting to offer ideas and opinions that I cannot back with evidence; or my recognizing that my mind is often blank, just absorbing (or not) the things people are saying with nary a comment or question coming to the fore; and so, I am often quiet. This is who I am. But I wonder if I am quieter than I would have been if I had been in a normal relationship instead of this relationship where my words and comments were always second-rate—always second to my ex-husband’s?

Can I blame my continued reticence to speak and participate on this relationship, where my voice and opinions always came after my ex’s, in both importance and validity, and where my voice was discounted, or shunned, or simply not sought? How much can a person take being discounted, her opinion only sought to concur with his, and not take that out of the bedroom or the kitchen or the living room and out into the world? The dynamic of this relationship must have continued unknowingly in other relationships. I’m certainly not blaming my introversion on my husband or our relationship, it was there before (was that why he “chose” me?), but I do wonder if I would have outgrown it sooner, better, more effectively, if I had felt respected at home? (Conversely, I wonder what my acquiescence did to him. Did it embolden him to perceive that he was always right and must always be submitted to? Did he lose any ability to debate and discuss by my not putting up a competent defense? Or did he merely continue in the path that was laid out for him as a child, when he was perceived as the boy genius?)

Natural weaknesses ended up being enforced and “strengthened” in the dynamics of this relationship. Add to that the fact that we lived in Israel for most of our marriage (I moved there by myself when I was 22), and Hebrew was not my mother-tongue and never became as strong and effective as English was for me. So, not only did I have to find the thoughts and ideas, but then I needed to express them in a foreign language. Add to that the indulgent smile (or long-suffering look) when I would use the wrong word or verb form, even if done in a friendly manner, dampening my desire to speak up. And then, opposite that timidity, was this paradigm of speech, a man who does not hesitate to express his opinion, state facts or variations thereof, and seek to convince even if he does not believe in what he is saying. So, the confidence to speak and participate retreated even further.

I remember that he told me once that he had convinced a friend of his of the existence of God. My reaction was to shutdown, to tell him that I don’t want to get a repeat of the lecture. I did not want his mind to take the controls over mine—I feared it from pretty early on in the relationship. I wanted to keep my doubts and questions intact, and not be flooded by his certainties and proclamations (believed or not). Perhaps I just wasn’t mentally strong enough to challenge this man. My intelligence, I have found, is quiet, more collaborative and interactive. I do not try to overpower people, but simply to express my thoughts and ideas, and draw out theirs; the most I hope for is a reverberating thought or question in someone. I trust in their mental capacities, whereas he trusts in his own, only. What a difference.

It truly was, in many respects, an unbalanced relationship. The safeguards that love naturally imposes to make that imbalance seem insignificant wore me down with time. The passion of being together, of being touched and loved by him, could not compensate, ultimately, for the pain he seared upon me. Unfortunately, the friction that two opposites generate realign over time, reinstating the true unbalanced nature of the relationship.

Mr. Thermostat Update

The house has not sold, Only one couple came to see the house this weekend. But I did clean and it looks as good as it can with its circa 1977 tile work and kitchen and bathrooms. I even got up on a ladder and cleared out the plants that seemed to think that the gutter over the garage is a planter.

Mr. Thermostat is still at it. The outside temperature gauge reads 66 degrees at 7 this morning. Rather than open a window and save (the power company will be raising rates 18% starting next month, but that is not a concern of his since he pays no bills but tells my daughters that I pay nothing and that he pays everything), Mr. Thermostat has moved the thermostat down to 62, and, of course, when I move it back up, he charges downstairs and puts it down again. I think that he is getting ready to call the police on me—he keeps walking around with his cell phone in hand. I am so waiting for this; it’s actually one of the few things that I look forward to with a big (sly) smile on my face.

Oh, and since I am sitting on the deck since it is truly a beautiful morning, all comfy in my flannel pajamas (I still need them to deal with the cold inside—both literal and figurative), he now keeps closing the door to the deck, which I leave open to let fresh air into the house. But since I have absolutely no trust in him, I took the key out of the front door, just in case he decides to lock me out. That would be a shock.

I need to get out of here. We should not be living in the same house. If one of my reasons for getting divorced was so that my daughters would know that it is wrong for a man to treat a woman the way he treats me, I’m not quite sure that the message has gotten out, or that it has become clouded over during the three years we have lived separated and divorced in this house. The three years during which we have battled over the thermostat. And what is the thermostat? What has it come to signify? That we don’t care about each other? That we are unable to talk? That we cannot work through the strings that are fraying all over the PSA? That when love dies bitterness so bitter that spite and hatred take over to fill its place? That if you concede the thermostat to him in the hopes that if his body is comfortable (even if yours isn’t) then maybe he will be nice to you, caring of you, when you’re married, then you’re surely done for in a divorce.

And what of my daughters? What lessons about relationships are they taking from this? Oh, to feel like I have failed as a parent in spite of how hard I tried is harder than anything else. When I go upstairs and I see their doors closed my heart sinks. We are all alone, isolated in our rooms. And it’s not just their ages, what have I given them? A woman who tries to stand up to that man but fails? A woman who pretends to be strong but cries in the quiet of her car? A woman who talks of compassion but shows none to their father, her former husband?

That in spite of the meanness of that man and her difficult relationship with him (pre- and post-divorce) she fought to attain higher levels of self-respect than his behavior enabled, and to develop her relationships with the world, and to tend to them with love and concern consistently, regardless of how they tend to her. 

* * *

Father's Day

To My Father

Always the gentleman, letting the women in his life take the spotlight without a complaint. The man who talks practicalities and finances, but can still muster up the energy to analyze motivations and assess possibilities, and then listen patiently to endless reiterations of those analyses.

So enjoy the comfort of yet another mystery novel, and…

Here’s your mother.


* * * 

Fat Arms

It seems that I have become a woman with fat arms. Now that it is almost summer that fact will be made visible, unless I decide to always feel a slight chill and be in need of a lightweight cardigan. There will be none of this over-the-shoulder wearing of the sweater either, but full-blown through the arms. Oy. Uninvited and unbeknownst to me through the long winter months of this year my arms have morphed to become those of my sturdy grandmother’s (the grandmother who could grate a potato in three seconds on a hand-grater). Oh, the shame, the shame. Not that I was ever svelte in any of my limbs, but my arms had at least looked firm and somewhat toned, but now, now the illusion has been dispelled and I am left to look at myself in all my burgeoning capacity. Yes, I know that this is the call to exercise, but before life went on and I could be an arm-exhibitor without feeling the need to pump iron.


On What Not to Wear they counsel the fashion-challenged to dress for the weight they are and not the weight they want to be. Okay, so I went on that advice to Ann Taylor yesterday. I tried on some summer tops: short sleeved and sleeveless. I felt like a teenager with a pimple: all I could see were my arms and their heft, and not the fabric and the cut and color of the shirts. Is this where I have landed? A mature woman who obsesses about her looks and makes herself uncomfortable because of how her arms look in a burgundy silk sleeveless blouse (on sale)? I can think the most intense thoughts and try to unravel the mysteries of relationships, but if I am uncomfortable with my physical self I will not be able to bring any clarity forth. Let’s make this clear: I am not talking about being thin, I’m talking about losing the body that has accompanied me for so many years. I’m talking about morphing into my mother and my grandmother, about transforming into a woman whose body represents the progress we make through life and is now standing firmly beside her, representing the year 47.


I bought a sleeveless white shirt (on sale), with arms visible from every angle. I bought it to teach me that I will not sink through the earth when people stare at my arms (as they are wont to do) and that until I start pumping I need to be comfortable in the heat of the summer. I even wore it today, as a test of my mettle. And I did not even go through the entire day comparing my arms to those of the even flabbier type (of which there are many, but not as many as the firmly firmer) but I tried to walk confidently in spite of having reached this transformative moment—or because of it. Transformative moments, I guess they are ceaseless. Forcing us, always, to deal with the dimensions of our lives. So, I guess my ugly arms have taught me to not splinter my mind from my body, but that they each display the lessons and experiences of a life earnestly-lived.  


* * *


Trusting Again

What did you do to arrive at this dismal state? Were you forced into a reality that doesn’t suit you? Then fight to attain your reality—to regain your trust, at least in yourself, and in the process you will come to trust others because you cannot live isolated by your lack of trust.

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Eleven

Signs along the Way


According to experts, both professional and amateur (namely, friends with experience in counseling and well-meaning friends), I need to understand that it’s not my fault that my ex-husband emotionally and verbally abused me. OK, I got that. It’s not my fault. It’s Not My Fault! So what? Does saying that do anything for me? Does it make me feel any better? Does it make my choice in this man any less devastating? Does it make me believe it? Does it make my life any more bearable? Even though I think I know it’s true, it’s still hard to believe.


Saying that it’s not my fault doesn’t give me anything to grow from: I don’t gain insight into his personality or mine; and, I can’t assess what I did that enabled me to become a victim of such a deeply devastating act, repeatedly, over far too many days and weeks and months and years. And, as someone who finds no shame in wallowing in self-pity, it certainly doesn’t help prevent me from wasting the rest of my life wallowing.


The irony here (both in what happened and my silent reaction) is that I had always seen myself as a strong, independent woman. I was a feminist, spurred by the times and an inner impulse. I was determined not to have a traditional woman’s job; I was determined to break from expectations; I was pitting myself against society’s game plan and I planned to come up strong. Was my husband the embodiment of all I opposed? Was he my nemesis, some chauvinistic trick to bring me down from my lofty heights of feminist idealism where men and women would be absolute equals to prove to me that I was wrong? Wrong to assume, assert even, that we are equal? It’s sad to realize that in public I would talk about and act upon my beliefs, while in private I betrayed everything that was essential to me and about me.


So why did I let this happen to me; how did this happen to me? Women were still taught to be submissive, even in the midst of the radicalism of the 60’s and 70’s; after all, our parents, especially our mothers, were raised in different times, times when those roles were the norms. Was this dichotomy the problem? The expectations placed on us outside the home and inside the home did not mesh. At home, my mother was the helpmate to my father. Outside there was talk of equality, at home the old world still reigned; moreover, since there were no role models to follow at home, it was up to me to find my way. To further complicate things, my husband was not uncomfortable with the status quo on the home front. Even though we started off with an equal duties pact, it did not last long. In the face of so much change I still perceived my role as supporting and even bolstering the ego of my husband, regardless of all the other things I was to accomplish on my own. Where was my feminism in this? And why did I concede so easily at home; was it comfortable to put the guard down at home, to not have to always fight and be aware of discrimination? But still, I wonder at the woman who at twenty took off alone for her grand adventure; I would have thought that I would have been stronger, better, than that. I guess I was wrong on yet another thing.


In spite of the theorizing, I still wonder where my ex-husband got off thinking that it’s alright to insult his wife and then sit down to eat the dinner she just prepared, with nary a compliment in sight. He doesn’t seem to have been in any turmoil; even for the “old style” husband his behavior was unacceptable. So while I can lay some blame for my acquiescence on society, he only has himself to blame.


Although I can apportion some of the blame, I realize that no matter how externally-mandated roles and expectations have influenced us, our interior core defines us and there is no backing down from seeing all as stemming from that core. We created and destroyed our love and our marriage. Understanding what happened will help me to heal and, I hope, create a brighter future.

It's Finally Over: Apologies

It’s time to apologize. There have probably been people you have not been honest with, or have been curt to, or have evaded because of your situation and how it was making you feel. Living a hidden life, which is what I know I had done for so much of during my marriage--from myself, my spouse, my family and my acquaintances--made me live dishonestly. Now, is the time to speak openly and recreate your relationships the way you want them to be.


Silence of the Lambs

Are certain types of women (okay, men, too, since I have met a few of those) more prone to become controlled, and then abused in their relationships? Are they “magnets” for controlling men? Are there qualities in a woman that “invite” that type of man to nestle into her life?

Are these women typically:

  • Analytical
  • Compassionate
  • Empathetic
  • Introspective
  • Introverted
  • Observant
  • Reserved
  • Self-conscious
  • Self-doubting
  • Sympathetic

Isn’t it easier to get a quiet woman to see that the world revolves around her man than one who is outgoing? Isn’t it easier for a woman who keeps to herself become excited to be with a man who directs their activities and gets her off of her comfy couch? Isn’t it easier for a woman who does not have many friends take on her man’s and eventually let her few friends go? Oh, it’s so easy to lose your life in love. To let yourself be swept off your feet, to be excited at the possibilities you never imagined. To become who someone else says you are.

Is that what turns these relationships from romances to tragedies? In these controller-controlled relationships the tragic hero is undoubtedly the woman and her fatal flaw seems to be her boundless trust. Are we too trusting? Do we want to get out of who we are and so hand ourselves into the wrong men’s hands? Are we tempted by their visions of ourselves? And do they see us as malleable? Are they the creators and we their creations? Are they able to control their home-based universe because they have created it? Do these men need custom-designed women: ones who they’ve designed? Do these relationships sour when the women begin making their own changes? When they start to balk at the design that no longer feels right? And is this when the men start bearing down—hard—because they are losing what they need—their custom-designed women, and lives?

Is this why they are not controlling in the beginning of the relationship? Because in the beginning both the men and the women are enamored of the possibilities. There is no control until the controlled feels the strictures. And that is generally felt only when the woman has grown past what has been assembled for her. Does she balk when she feels less of herself than she wants to be? Does he break the camel’s back when he pushes for too many alterations to her true self? Is the illusion over when the subtlety is gone: you are either who I say you are or you are nothing?

* * *

Our neighbor had a young German shepherd named Max. Now Max’s yard had an electronic fence and Max occasionally wore his electronic collar. But our Maltese was just too tempting for Max. One day he must have said to himself “to hell with the electric shock that I will feel as I cross over the invisible barrier, I must get closer to Poops.” And through the invisible fence he went. He sauntered over to smell Poops’ various places, he investigated my garden, he smelled the fresher air on this side of the fence. He only went home when I screamed to his owner to get him. Max didn’t seem to have suffered from the experience. Once he realized that what was controlling him couldn’t really hurt him, he was no longer controlled by it. I thank Max for that lesson (though not for scaring Poops and me).

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Ten


Stupid. Shit. Beast. Whore. Bitch. Liar. Loser. Asshole. Leech. Fart. Zero. Nothing.

I can’t remember the first time my ex-husband insulted me or what he said because I didn’t even notice that I had been insulted. It wasn’t much of a stretch from the negative comments and forceful suggestions that he was continually giving me about what to do, and what to say, and what to think, and what to feel, and even how to respond to him and his comments. The realization that his caring critiques were really humiliating affronts took far too many years of my taking it, and accepting it as a part of our marriage. The shame is that I didn’t stand up to him the first time the word “fat” or “ugly” or “nothing” or maybe it was “stupid” came out of his mouth and scream back at him, “DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT AGAIN!” Who knows, maybe that would have been enough to break a pattern before it started? But I didn’t. And so my life became one filled with far too many insults, and distrust and fear of the man I had once loved and respected, and much too much silence from me.

I wonder what would have happened if I had yelled back at him. Would I have been excited about my 20th anniversary rather than dread it? I’ll never know, because I didn’t. I stood there quietly while he had his tantrum, and then I went back to life, I probably asked him if he wanted dinner. This acceptance or excusing of his behavior is something to shake my head in wonder at now, but then, then I just wanted to placate my husband, I just wanted to calm him down. It’s revelatory that my focus was on him and not on me; I was worrying about soothing him rather than being contorted with anguish at how he had spoken to me.

Bound together for me in this whole sorry scene is that I was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing, in spite of the way I was being treated. I continued to take care of his needs and coddle his ego, and he was supposed to do the same for me, after all, didn’t we love each other? Isn’t that the way a marriage is supposed to work, aren’t we supposed to take care of each other? He broke the pattern by not caring for me, but still expecting that I attend to him. Or rather, he demanded more from me, of me, in order to get any tenderness from him. And so it came to pass that I would have to take the reprimands to get the tenderness. (But was it tenderness? What was it, what was I getting in return for serving him?) He was either breaking me down or proving my absolute allegiance, or both. In the end, I was mostly broken, but not enough to prevent me from breaking with him, but it took so very long. Years and years of taking it quietly, of looking past the harsh comments, and being treated like a servant, far too many years wasted expecting things to get better when some in-the-future and undefined event or situation would come to pass. But really, years of not realizing how bad it was—how wrong it was.

Even though I didn’t hurl back a biting comment that would put him in his place, or use my all-purpose standard, “Fuck you!” for quite a while, I did not acquiesce. My mind, and then my body, subtly began turning away from him. Gradually he stopped being a depository of knowledge who I would refer to when talking with others; instead, he became a person whose opinion I would so completely shun that when it was uttered, I would tune it out completely. So deeply, although still unconsciously, did I need to oppose him, prevent him from taking over any more of my mind and inhibit my self-esteem. I did not want to grant his words validity as I struggled to oppose his nasty pronouncements. Swirling within me were his obscenities, I didn’t need to confront his logic; I didn’t need to make sense of anything he said for it would always cause me to doubt myself and not him.

But it took so very long to reach that point of closing off his words. That turning away, even if unseen and unrealized, is perhaps what kept me alive, what kept me from wholly absorbing his insults and his hateful vision of myself and the world. It is, I think, what enabled me to break from him; to demand a divorce and then push and push and push him until he finally had to acquiesce—to me.

While continuing to live with him after that first outright insult, I began unconsciously to sidestep the marriage, and especially the relationship that is supposed to be at its core, that place where we are to respect each other and seek solace in each other. That was my leaving. Even with a pretty low self-esteem quotient and a personality that quietly took the abuse he was shoving at me by closing doors and taking solitary drives, I remained intact by slowly shutting him out. The swinging door into my interior life became closed to the person to whom I had once swung it open with a passion. The passion part is still there, but now with an entirely different tone.