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Archive for the ‘Dating’ Category

In the last five years of being single, I  have had my fair share of happiness and heartbreak. In the beginning, I had a fairly steep learning curve but luckily I am a quick study. The most important thing I’ve learned is that heart is a muscle; it can be bruised but not broken. So the more you use it the stronger it gets.heartXSmall

Very early on in an effort to “get out there” and see what was happening in the dating world, I signed up on two major dating sites and one matchmaking service. In the last five years I must have met at least 70 men, all but one of whom was “as advertised.” How was it? Well let’s just say I consumed my fair share of coffee. (How do you think I got the name Café Girl anyway?)

All in all, I have to say it was a good experience. In a way, the process reminds me of a job interview and, to some extent, really, that’s what it is. I was at once both interviewer and interviewee. A handfull of relationships made it past the coffee stage to what I call, a “relationship threshold” (approximately 3 months). However, it was at that point, at least for me, that most of the relationships came undone. Either he or I didn’t make the three-month “probation period.”

I have been on both the giving and receiving end of a few exit interviews over the last five years ,and it all boils down to one thing. One of us changes their mind. It has nothing to do with what I did or said said –  mentioning the “c” (commitment) word or asking to meet his friends had little to do with it. I might have thought they were good reasons why things didn’t work out, but they weren’t.

If I over analyze the situation it’s very easy to blame myself. And I end up asking myself, “What could I have done differently?” In the end, it’s a pointless question because I realize that there’s nothing I would have done differently. It’s not a question of rejection – for once popular culture is right – it’s not me – it really is him. Or I can tell him with a clear conscience: it’s not you, it’s me!

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/FotografiaBasica

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desertXSmallI have been exiled in a nondating desert for the past several months now. Ever since my return from Italy, when I started writing a book and now my blog, it’s as if the love gods have decided do away with all distractions and keep me focussed.  I haven’t gone this long without at least some sort of male attention since the fifth grade when I stayed home from school for a week because of chicken pox.  It’s as if the gods are testing me.

Oh they tease me alright,  and they tempt me, and sometimes I even think they’re mocking me.  How do I know this?  Well I just spent a week in the most macho of cities, Buenos Aires, and not once did any man even try to hit on me – and this in a city famous for its Latin love connections.  It’s not that I am a wallflower or some sort of shrinking violet. On the contrary, I am a shameless flirt.  But nothing – nada, niente, not even a nibble – forget about any proposals – indecent or otherwise.

And so I continue to wander and write.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/MoreISO

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Ideal 017Dancing for me has been a real lifesaver lately.  It’s always been the perfect prescription for a broken heart.  Last year, Salsa could have saved me from feeling sorry for myself  and embarking on a long-term relationship with Ben and Jerry. But it didn’t;  it wasn’t enough to get me through my most  recent  relationship derailment.  Salsa is such a joyful dance but I was too sad to even attempt it.

When it comes to dwelling in sadness, Tango is just the thing.  The music, the lyrics, the longing: it was exactly what I needed.  During my week in BsAs, the sad strains of tango pulled me back from a trail of tears. I channeled all of my regrets and melancholy on to the dance floor.

My friends like to tease me about my passion for dancing. Like everything else in my life (including my love life) it’s an all-or-nothing deal.  “Soon,” they say, “we’ll be seeing you on Dancing with the Stars.”  Ha! If they only knew…

I am not a natural dancer.  I come by lots of other things naturally (languages, diplomacy and falling for the wrong men), but when God was giving out grace and coordination I must have been the last in line.  Whatever little talent dust was leftover in the cosmic gift bag and was sprinkled on me never made it past my neck.

So I have to work for every step.  And work I do.  When it comes to mastering a skill that is just slightly beyond me, the one thing that saves me is my stubbornness.  It’s an “I’ll Show You” attitude that allows me to shrug at my missteps, laugh at myself and try again and again and again.

Take, for example, my morning technique classes.  I practiced walking for five days.  How hard could it be, right?  You would think walking is an easy thing since we do it every day.  But let me tell you, it is not.  Walking in Tango requires deliberation, precision and balance, and I was as wobbly as a newborn colt.  After my first class I felt a bit dejected at not being able to master such a simple task.

Later that day, my first Tango dance lesson was only slightly better.  Since I was in Latin America, I was doing my best to channel that superstar of song, that mistress of movement, that diva of dance Shakira, but to no avail.  She’s right,  “hips don’t lie,” and mine were a dead give away.  Trying to master the contradictory movements of keeping your upper torso still while moving only your hips is nothing short of impossible – at least for me.

I was dreading my first milonga that evening at Nino Bien.  But since I had nowhere to go but up, I surprised both myself and my practice partners on the dance floor.  Every day the steps got a little easier as I became more confident.  By the end of the week and my last  Milonga at Confiteria Ideal (photo), I was dancing steps I never thought possible: the elegant walz, the fast paced milonga and, yes, even a little salsa.

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His & HersIf you live a life in the future perfect, it makes the present tense – Café Girl

 Living in the present takes practice.  It’s not always easy to be conscious of the present moment in my daily life let alone in a romantic relationship that is just picking up steam.  Let’s face it, who doesn’t have expectations?  You’d have to be a highly evolved Buddhist monk or an accomplished ascetic to achieve this state.

Forget the “c” word (commitment), it’s the “e” word (expectations) that’s the problem.  We’re conditioned by popular culture to have expectations…unless of course you’re my bag lady.  Movies, music, countless magazines, and books, they all tell us how it’s supposed to be.  They sow the weeds of discontent which we must remember to pluck from our garden if it is to thrive.  Charles Dickens wasn’t the only one to have Great Expectations.  We all do.

Over the years and with lots of practice, my expectations of people have become less and less.  I would like to say that they’ve become non-existent but that’s just not true. I haven’t achieved that level of detachment so I’m not quite ready for the monastery yet.  However I have gotten much better at managing my expectations.

They’ve been scaled back from a vision of happily ever complete with his and her towels to daydreaming about a romantic weekend getaway next month.  And when I can manage them down to the present moment, I will have achieved nirvana.  But until then…

I often think of that scene in the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary where Bridget fast forwards from the present moment of racy emails with the office scoundrel directly to her wedding reception in the blink of an eye.   Mustn’t read too much into it she thinks to herself.   How many times I have projected myself in the future? I don’t even want to think about it.  Eish!

 Time travel isn’t the stuff of science fiction it’s the stuff of every day life, it is such stuff as dreams are made on.  The future perfect is perhaps built on tantalizing glimpses of the possibilities sometimes given intentionally – sometimes not.  Regardless it’s our propensity to project with even the slightest bit of encouragement that unfortunately affects our here and now.  So what happens when the future doesn’t unfold like I have led myself to believe? It becomes the present tense.

photo: © istockphoto.com

 

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ValentineMost people believe that relationships are based on chemistry.  But in order to see if chemistry or physics work (don’t forget about the laws of attraction) you have to meet enough men to see if there is any chemistry to begin with. So it really starts with mathematics and the laws of probability.

I figured the more men I met, the more probable it was that I would encounter someone to whom I am attracted (physics), and someone who alters the chemical composition of my brain (chemistry).  Although math was never one of my best subjects, I knew enough to realize that doing nothing to meet men would yield nothing.

Normally I shy away from math and science but this is rather simple math.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is I’m talking long odds here.  But I try not to get discouraged because I know it’s the long shots that pay off the best.

After 20 years of settling, I was unwilling to “settle” for just anyone – and so I was prepared to drink a lot of coffee and use my newly acquired experience to make some discerning choices.  I had quickly come to realize that drinking coffee has become the modern day equivalent of kissing frogs.

I had met quite a few men who had dazzled me with their charm.  Could this be him, I wondered?  So soon?  They may have been good looking, wealthy and well educated but they were also cheap and rude to waiters.  In the beginning I used to think that they would improve over time.  But that only happens with wine.

Yes I confess when I had much less experience, I had, hmmm how should I put this, made allowances for behavior I wouldn’t accept from a friend let alone a stranger. There I said it.  How humiliating. But everyone makes mistakes. The good news is, it’s not the mistakes I made, so much as it was the lessons that I learned.

Was I so needy, starved for attention, lonely that I found things acceptable with a stranger that I wouldn’t tolerate in a marriage?  Yes, I guess I was, but not any more.  So what happened?

I stopped taking things so seriously. I decided to have fun.  I didn’t approach every date as if it were my last and every man as if he were my last chance for happiness.  In my age group (middle aged baby boomers) there were plenty of available men out there.  I just had to meet them.  And I did.

So here it is.  If you break 100% down into equal thirds you get 33.3%, 33.3% and 33.3%.  Let’s put aside the .3 % in each third (or the 1% that they add up to) for now.  I’ll come back to that in another post with specific examples.

In the first 33% – I’d meet a man and I think he’s great. But he doesn’t feel the same way about me.   It’s always a little disappointing when he doesn’t call for a second date even though I thought things went swimmingly. Oh well…you think to yourself. There goes a perfectly good date to my niece’s wedding.

In the second one third of the dating pool, he thinks I’m the next best thing since golf and a grey goose martini but alas, he doesn’t do it for me. So I dance around the idea of a next date, and I tell him I’ll be in touch.  Of course I never am.  Okay so right now things are about even.

Finally in this last third, we meet at the café, shake hands or exchange a peck on both cheeks (since I live in Montreal) and we both decide that this is not going beyond coffee.  This is the easiest of all three scenarios because we both can tell the truth without having to worry about hurt feelings.  In fact, these have been some of the most enjoyable dates I have been on because we’re playing for fun and not for keeps.

So where does that leave me?  Well with the one percent accumulated over each of the thirds.  As I said it’s pretty long odds.  (More on that one percent later!) But at this point in my life, I have had enough of settling and compromise so I am willing to wait.  Most people would rather be happy alone than miserable in a couple.  The grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence – but sometimes it’s just Astroturf.

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In BetweenIn the Hollywood version of “The Princess Bride”, Westley (the pirate) is resuscitated and brought back to life.  He marries his princess Buttercup and they ride off happily into the sunset.  Many years ago, when I first read William Goldman’s version of the story he explained that the ending was meant to be quite different. In the real version of the story, Westley dies and there’s nothing to be done.

In his abridgment of this lovely little tale, Goldman learns and passes on a valuable lesson, “Sometimes life is just not fair”.  As someone who is used to the proverbial happy ending, I should have taken issue with that ending but at the time, I found some comfort in the fact that someone had finally told the truth.  And so like most 21 year olds, I filed that bit of wisdom away for use at a later date.

A few years later, I was walking by a downtown skyscraper when I passed a bag lady holding a sign that read:  $1.00 for a piece of my mind.  Naturally as I was, and still am to some extent, in a hurry, I thought the sign said $1.00 for peace of mind.  I guess you could tell what kind of a day I was having.  So, rather than acquiring what I thought was peace of mind through some charitable act…she gave me a piece of her mind with this advice.

“Hey girlie, ain’t no such thing as a Hollywood ending.”

What?!  As a newly minted career girl (pre Sex and the City) and someone who was just starting out on her life’s journey, this did not give me peace of mind.  Of course I knew she was right but somehow there had to be an exception, at least for me.   I had conveniently forgotten William Goldman’s adage on life.

I quickly learned that there were no exceptions, no eleventh hour cavalry rescues, and no knights in shining armor.  The truth is that people die, promotions don’t materialize, the castle is drafty and the prince runs off with the scullery maid. In the second act, your job gets outsourced, you gain weight in strategic places, lovers lie and children keep coming home.  So much for happily ever after.

Happily Ever After, it’s like one of those Zen koans… there is no there, there.  What does that mean?   I think too often we make the mistake of believing that happily ever after is a place, a destination, an end point.  But it’s not. If as they say, life is a journey, then the best you can hope for are little pit stops of happiness along the way.  Are we there yet, we used to ask our parents. No! There is no there, there.

For me life is like a book. It’s one continuous narrative and the best and only thing you can do is to be the author of your own adventures or misadventures, such as the case maybe.   Write your own script, don’t let someone else write it for you, make a decision (any decision), if it’s the wrong one, you’ll fix it.  Give yourself permission – and don’t let analysis/paralysis rule your life.  Fonce*, as my French friends would say.

Of course I came to this realization a bit late in life.  But then again I was always something of a late bloomer.  In fact, it’s only in the last 5 years, since my divorce, that I’ve been acquiring a new perspective on life.  Sometimes it’s fun, other times puzzling and many times it’s damn hard.

I’d like to think I’m a littler bit wiser, rather than worse, for the wear and tear on my soul.  And by and large I am.  The mistakes are fewer, the pleasures simpler and the “down time” a whole lot less than it used to be.

At the end of the day – I have realized that many of the steps forward you take, you take by yourself.  Sometimes you get a little help along the way, that’s why God invented your mother, sisters, daughters and girlfriends.  (Sometimes I think God should have quit while he was ahead). And then of course there are those other steps, too … you know, the ones that  have you going round in circles or just plain backward.  Unfortunately, those steps are yours alone … every single one of them.

The good news is, as a woman you can always stop and ask for directions.  But that’s not an easy thing to do especially when you’re trying to show that you’re calm, confident and in control. How can you ask for help when you’re trying to live up to a role that you think everyone expects you to fulfill….that of Wonderful Woman.

That is especially true for me.  A lot of people (friends, family members and acquaintances) often tell me they live vicariously through me.  And I must admit that on paper it all looks pretty exciting and maybe even a little glamorous.  And sometimes it is — but most of the time it’s a lot of work and sometimes it’s a little lonely.

I have traveled the world for my job and have lived in a couple of very lovely cities. My name actually sounds like it belongs to a character in a novel (and I guess in a way it does). But things are not always as they appear and that’s why I decided to write this little memoir – to set the record straight for myself. Because sometimes I am in danger of believing my own press and it’s always better to be humble than to be haughty – it’s a much shorter fall when things don’t work out.

I am now 50.  50!  When did that happen?  I often think about what Canadian born  comedic actress Marie Dressler once said.

By the time we hit fifty, we have learned our hardest lessons. We have found out that only a few things are really important.  We have learned to take life seriously, but never ourselves.

Sometimes when things feel a bit overwhelming, as they do now, I try to take Marie’s advice and focus on those things that are really important while not taking myself too seriously.  Like Marie, I don’t really want or need the drama.  I much prefer a good comedy.

photo: © istockphoto.com/VladLo

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