Small Talk

small talk 2I spent my first 26 years in the UK, so I always thought I was pretty good at meeting new people. Easy entry points included the weather (past, present and future), the journey to the event (roads, Tube, parking) and of course, if desperate, hope that the Rugby or Big Brother is underway.  Sure, I was a bit clunky, but by time we reached the bottom of the glass or cup, I could breathe out and cruise along nicely.

Then I moved to the US.

Here small talk is an art. Something Americans seem to acquire at birth along with self confidence, perfect teeth and a love of crap beer. And therefore a complete and utter mystery to me. 24 hours in the US and I moved from ‘slightly awkward but warms up quick’, to a nervous, twitchy weirdo who needed to find the restroom every 30 seconds.

I tried. Oh boy I tried. I asked my friends for topics, questions, entry points and guidelines for small talk. I watched and listened. I even YouTubed it. I’ve feigned interest in all manner of idiocy (the price of diapers at Target vs. Costco, how the local sports team’s manager sucks) and asked every banal question I can think of (how do you know so and so, home location, career, family trees, whether it will be a good ski season, parking restrictions, the price of milk), but still… crickets.

I don’t think  its all on me though. I also think that the people I meet bear some of the blame. Once they’ve gotten through their small talk standards, ‘are you married?’ ‘ how old are your kids?’ ‘where go to school?’ ‘what do you do?’ seem to result in a vacuum in almost every conversation. Once people have asked me ‘do you like America?’ and established that without a husband, family or a familiar background they have nothing in common with me,  I can guarantee my ‘new friend’ will need to find a drink/his or her partner/ the Tardis within 37 seconds.

But since I am an adult and small talk is a requirement for survival (and on a date ESSENTIAL), I’ve developed a few strategies to avoid being left staring at my shoes while trying climb inside my own intestines:

Men

  •  Ask about ‘the team’. I’ve never watched an American football game but asking ’bout the local team seems to have a 99% hit rate with men. I’ve found a lot of smiling, head shaking and ‘for sure’ comments can get us through the first few minutes of awkwardness. If asked about a specific game or player, I always bounce the question back immediately. Men love sharing their knowledge of the intricacies of a sport. And they assume that their opinion is valued.. so I value it. A lot. Just don’t be too enthusiastic or you might wind up roped into a viewing party. Which is basically small talk x 1000 with a specialist vocabulary.
  • Find his hobby or ‘used to be his hobby before the kids/house’. Ask about it. Express awe. You might luck out and find an overlap (men seem to manage to maintain hobbies after kids)… and who knows.. you could wind up with a activity buddy. Don’t be too enthusiastic though or you might wind up with angry and suspicious woman stalking you.
  • Weekend plans. Grown ups don’t just wake up on Saturday and wonder ‘what should I do with my day’, they have plans. Things already on the calendar. Ask about them. Just don’t admit that your weekend plans typically consist of ‘walk dog’ and then winging it.  That doesn’t seem to go down well.

Women

  • Ask about the family. 99.99% of women have families and love to share so it’s a surefire winner. Sure, hearing about how stressed she is about whether Jimmy is going to get into a specific daycare/kindergarten/school isn’t as scintillating to you as to her, but hey.. stress is stress. Joy is joy. Her husband/ partner is probably sick to death of the conversation, but women need to process… so be there for her. No woman has ever complained about someone expressing interest in her worries. EVER.
  • Complement her hair/makeup/shoes. I’m a sucker for this one so I KNOW it works. And if I luck out and its shoes.. the branches are endless. Foot pain. What to wear on a night out after 40. How you’re considering opting out of heels. Remember that women don’t like to make each other uncomfortable, so likely she’s trying as much as you are to find a connection point. And everyone wears shoes… the rest.. well you can wing it.

If all else fails…

  • Play the foreigner card. Turn up the accent. Laugh at your homeland. Applaud their version of your accent. Tell stories of your incompetence in the US. Your bad dates. Mention a blog…. hang on… is this just a very extended bout of small talk???????

…..Um. Do you happen to know where the bathroom is?  I really do need to get a refill. Actually I think I need to go feed the meter. I’ll be right back.

The family you choose

friendsI once had a brush with death.

Some sore patches on my leg emerged a few weeks after a surgery. Ignoring them until I was limping. I headed to my doc, who assured me, “no big deal”. Phew.

2 days later , out on a run I realized I couldn’t breath. My leg was throbbing and I suddenly remember a former friend who dropped dead while running due to a blood clot. I walked the rest of the way and headed to the doctor. 3 hours later I was told my weird sore patches had actually been signals of a 3 ft long blood clot that reached from my ankle up through my groin and up towards my heart. 1 hour later I  learned I had a pulmonary embolism (PE) in my lungs;

“But the BEST PE you could get” according to my hematologist.

Not really thinking about what this meant, I headed off on a date.

Only later, when telling friends, did I realize how lucky I was. How my bike fitness had probably helped break up the PE in my lungs.. and how ‘heading off on a date’ wasn’t probably the best response to a fairly major medical emergency.

That’s what your support network, aka your friends and friends of friends, are there for when you’re single. To remind you not to be a half-wit. To point out the sometimes obvious. To make sure you’re taking care of yourself.

Married folk have husbands who do that (or other moms who nurture everyone).  They kill the spiders, know when you’re sick and support you no matter what.

Singletons, well we have friends for this (or we do it ourselves in the case of those terrifying spiders). These friends become our chosen family. They’re the ones who we lean on when we’re feeling down, who support us, and who help us out in a crisis. They’ll listen to your wittering, and hand you a drink or a bar of chocolate when you need it. Family is family and while your biological family might be awesome, for many of us it’s not practical to ask them to pick you up from the hospital when they live 4,000 miles away.

I love my chosen family. They consist of my riding gals, current and former work colleagues, friends or friends, Facebook friends, old neighbors, school mates and the random people you meet as part of your everyday routine.

This week I lost one of my chosen family. The guy who calmed me down with whiskey after a slippery motorcycle ride. Waited with me for first dates. Raised his eyebrows at some of them. But who always, always had a smile and a ‘what’s up?’ for me as neighbor patron. I spent my last night in Denver at his bar, and many evenings collecting my thoughts and shooting the shit over a nightcap.

It’s the first time I’ve lost someone who propped me up. Who was there, Who provided a meeting place for other singletons and people seeking a chosen family. The oddballs, the tattoo and motorcycle nut cases, the Denver homegrown, those who loved a rockabilly band on a Saturday night. Or just to sit at a bar and chit-chat about nothing.

Today I’ve never felt more protective and appreciative of those who remain. To lean on, to reach out to, to care if they don’t hear from you, and who remind you of whats important. The surprising loss, and even more surprising impact on my heart, is a good reminder of the importance of our chosen family.

To my chosen family, much love.

RIP Gary Lee Bomar.

 

Dating retirement

RetirementThere seems to be a worrying trend I’m noticing among my single chicas and dudes. Worrying because I seem to be part of it without actually checking a box or deciding.

Dating Retirement.

Warning signs include declaring ‘I can’t be fucked’ when someone asks you about whether you’re seeing someone, watching your match.com subscription finally expire with relief and spending your Saturday nights reordering your Netflix queue without embarrassment.

I mentioned to a guy friend that it had ‘been a while’ (I think my exact phrase was ‘100 days without sex, I am officially a virgin again’) and was met with sympathy and as much horror as one can convey via text. A few months later, I asked him how his love was going and was somewhat to amused to hear he too had adopted a monastic existence. I poked him about how that was working out and was met with the phrase ‘serene’.

Shit.. this trend is REAL.

When your girlfriend who only dates sporadically hasn’t had a date for the entire summer that’s one thing. When the dude you’ve known as ‘that guy’ who only dates hot 30-somethings (“I get older, they stay the same age”)… well damn. I guess we’re all giving up.

I know a few single people at work, and had taken their ‘non dating’ status as an overt and ridiculous commitment to work, but now I’m just wondering why it took me so long and why I didn’t pay more attention to them earlier. Clearly they’re not insane (though they do all work too much), but enlightened

Apparently the path to a joyful and harmonious existence isn’t from finding your soul mate, your ‘other half’, that one person who’s got your back.. but instead finding it buried in that German Chocolate Cake sorbet, or on that epic downhill, or hearing the world wake up from inside your tent. Joy and pleasure seems to come whether there’s someone in your life or not… and I have to say, after it being ‘not’ for a long 7 years, I’m really thrilled to realize that ‘not’ being part of a couple isn’t all half bad. Accepting the inanity of chasing rainbows in the hope that one of them might be attractive, sexy, humorous and svelte enough to not need one of those seat belt extenders on a plane just seems smart. After all, people who don’t date don’t spend their time hoping, being let down or wasting $39.99 on monthly subscriptions to ‘whatsleft.com’.

Is it lonely in retirement? I have to admit – not really. I was far more lonely in my dying relationship that I’ve ever been in the last 7 years… and if I feel the need for company, it’s certainly a lot more accessible than it was from within a crappy marriage. Now of course, non of those friends are accessible for sex, romance or late night flirting, (yikes), but if I seem to recall, there wasn’t that much of that in a romantic relationship after a year or two anyway.

So bring on the plaid pants people. I’m officially hanging up my garter belt and first date chit-chat. Saying ‘ta-ta’ to awkward cups of coffee at 3pm in the afternoon and judgy looks from 50 something chubsters. I’m moving on to the next phase of life.

Retirement. It’s not just for old people.

Cross Fit: The joy of the WOD buddy

buddy carryCross fit is a not a team sport per se, but most days it feels like one. While you’re not actively competing and no-one is scoring any goals, your fellow WOD-ers motivate and inspire you, commiserate and advise you. We discuss our ‘game plan’ for Girl or Hero WODs, we compare 1 rep max weights and use each other to benchmark where we are, and some days, where we should be. And while your WOD buddy might not be wearing a matching shirt or Nanos (it would be kinda creepy if they were).. they are on your ‘team’.

What is a WOD buddy? She’s that chick who is always in the 5pm class with you every Monday. The dude who you spot on his 1 rep max lifts. The one who you can depend on not to take 8 minutes to row 500m while you’re punching out hand stand push ups. Your WOD buddy is your partner, your support, your conscience and sometimes your supplementary trainer, but they’re the ones you’re relieved to see at the box. Sure you’re there for the WOD, but your WOD buddy is what makes it bearable when you’re hitting your 40th wall ball or trying to get that muscle up. They’re close enough to where you are to feel your pain..and when you finish the WOD, you’re figuratively crossing the line together.

I was a gym rat for many years, joining my first gym at age 16 and leaving my last age 40, but I never had a workout buddy. I climbed, rowed, ran and strode for hundreds of miles, lifted, pushed and repped for hours upon hours, earbuds in place. I never said a word to anyone…for 24 years. If I ran into a friend at the gym we’d exchange pleasantries and go our separate ways. After all, I didn’t need a cheerleader on the treadmill and lifting 20lbs doesn’t require a spotter. In fact, the only people buddy-ed up were those scary dudes with wifebeaters and ‘roid rash hanging out by the 80lb dumbbells. The gym is a place to be alone and only you get you through the doors and through the workout. Which is probably why I never got any fitter in those 24 years. But boy, I did read a lot of US Weeklys.

When I started Crossfit, I fell into the same gym mentality mode. Come, workout, leave. Smile – sure, but make friends? Its a workout.. how do you make friends when you can hardly breathe? But you doYou have to. Working on lifts requires a partner, and if you’re about to drop 120lbs on your chest, you sure as hell want someone you trust by your side. And as you’re lungs are collapsing on your 800m run, you need someone to smile at (hey you’re too winded for encouraging words), and know that they’re suffering right along with you. Your WOD buddies are the ones learning, improving, dying alongside you during the WOD.

We all have more than one WOD buddy.. after all we all need different things at different times. The person who runs as slowly as me. The chica who can go shoulder to shoulder with me on squats. The girl who makes me laugh when we’re sucking wind. The girl who always suggests I try a little more weight with a smile and of course, the amazonian buddies who lift 200lbs+ and kip like there’s no tomorrow. We’ll never actually partner up (I can’t do what they do), but they’re my inspiration and they still find time to offer quiet assurances of ‘you can do it’.  I’ll never be one of them, but along with my mortal WOD buddies, they help inspire, support and coach me to be better.

Your perfect WOD buddy?  Are you the A type driver who wants to excel in everything and face down the Rx every workout? You need the guy (or girl) who’s ambitious and fearless, who’ll urge you to do more, lift more, punch out more. Or are you more of a ‘slow and steady’ WOD-er who likes to add 5lb increments to the bar and feels pretty satisfied as long as that number goes up slightly every time? Your buddy might be a fellow tortoise, slow and steady. Maybe you’re someone who pushes themselves one day, and nurses a hangover the next? Your WOD partner needs to know when to shout encouragement, and when to leave you to sweat out that beer from a distance. Or maybe you just someone  who’s not going to make you feel guilty because you went light on those kettlebell carries. Depending on the day, I’ve needed all of these buddies.. and I’ve found them all at my box.

The guy who pushes you and the guy who doen’t (phew). The guy you enjoy coaching or the guy who makes you laugh. The dude who you’re using as your benchmark or the chick who’s helping you perfect your Thruster.. your WOD buddy is as valuable to your box as your coach (and the AC).  You win when they do, and you feel each other’s pain when you’re on that 60th pushup.

So no matter whether your buddy is shouting you on as you crush 265lbs or just thrilled that speedy 500m row saved her from 5 extra burpees, give them a high five and thank them for being on your team. You can save the matching outfits for Halloween.

Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

I’ve moved house over 23 times since the age of 18, so I know a bit about saying goodbye. In fact, moving is so second nature to me that I wonder if I’m Telfon coated. I get energized by change and I do seem to get a bit itchy to move every 2-3 years. Right around when I notice the dust bunnies. House looking a bit grubby? Time to move.

I’ve also moved city, state and country a few times.. starting at the age of 3 months when I was carried into the station wagon and driven to Germany. I’d like to say that the move to Northern Italy at the age of 3 was driven by me, but likely I just ate my gellatio and looked out of the window.
Moving to the US was a big move, but once I got here, I bounced around from city to city; clothes in Denver, boyfriend in Vancouver, project in Dallas. Lets just say, I had bras in three states and two countries. Laundry day was complex. 

But I’m happy when I’m making a move. As long as I have a phone, and these days, internet, I know my friends are only a text away, and these days I spend a lot of my friend time ‘virtually’. In fact, its easier to maintain friendships than ever, and with technology, the expectation that you’ll see each other every week no longer holds. Even if you live in the same city there isn’t the same ‘what on earth have you been up to?’ evening since everyone’s on Facebook and I know exactly what you’ve done since January.  These days I have good friends all over, from Seattle, Houston, San Francisco and Milwaukee to London and soon to be Portland.

When friends move away its always strange to watch other people’s reactions. While its not a romantic relationship, the stages are weirdly similar. From denial (‘oh she’s not actually going to leave town’) to anger (‘ really? you’re leaving? why on earth?) to  bargaining (‘but what about all your friends?’) to finally acceptance (‘when’s the leaving party?’).
It can be fraught and emotionally charged, with the person staying taking it harder than the one who is leaving. And so I wasn’t surprised to hear these stories from a friend, who I caught up with for our last pedicure before she and her husband head off for a new adventure in Portland.
She was confused that people weren’t happy about her leaving, and seemed unable to mirror the joy that she is finding at the prospect of her move. The drama, the tension, the weird behavior.. of those being left. I guess in a way its like she’s just asked for a divorce.

And while I may be one of the few who won’t be sobbing on her shoulders as she leaves – hell, she’s not dying, just moving – I can’t help but think about whether I should revisit my plan to leave the state and have an adventure of my own.

Without a mortgage or spouse, now is the perfect time to make the leap and finally move somewhere without snow in May or June or July, where Texan drivers don’t drive across 5 lanes at 80mph without warning and where I could actually make it through winter without thermal underwear.
I started looking at places to live and I have to say, Northern California ain’t bad. As long as I stay away from the hippies, the do gooders and people who’ve never left the city.. I can sort of see myself there. By water. And culture. And hills. And wine.

But, like my old wool socks, I’ve gotten comfortable with Colorado this last year (yes, it took a while) and I’m torn between the desire for change, and the desire to dig my roots in deeper.
I sort of like our cow town origins, the ridiculousness that we call weather and the fact that I feel safe whenever I’m out and about. I like my local friends, my job and my neighbors; I like knowing I can hop on my bike and be at the top of a pass in 40 minutes, and that jeans are still acceptable wear in every restaurant in town. And while I wish people weren’t so conventional and damn Mid Western nice, I’m sort of conventional and nice myself. Plus if I moved I have to find a new therapist and a new mechanic.

That shit’s tricky y’all.

So I guess my burning desire to leave isn’t burning a trail just yet, so for now, I’m enjoying watching someone else move.

And as my friend heads off on her Portland adventure, armed with 2 dogs, a snake, a husband and some books, I know I’ll miss taco night and pedicures, our Christmas Eve schnaps drinking and her European sensibility. But I won’t miss her.
I know she’s a click or a short flight away, and damn, she’s got all the good restaurants now.
She might as well make up my bed already.

Boomerangs: Those ones who never quite go away

It seems that many of us (well… me anyway), tend to have at least one guy/girl in our life who never quite goes away. You know the one.. the one you probably been erased at least once in a fit of pique, who never quite dates you, but never quite goes away. Like a boomerang – albeit one with a very long trajectory. And despite the history of complete unreliability, we accept their ‘in then out then in’ presence in our life.

 Why?
Generally.. you can configure the desirability of any guy is conversely related to how much attention he delivers. Always late, never calls, texts you only when he’s drunk or lonely, disappears for months at a time… ? Sadly, even at the age of 40ish, and with complete awareness, we fall for it again and again.  The date who calls us, texts us, arrive on time and generally behaves in a completely desirable and upstanding manner? Nah… no ‘chemistry’.

 We’re just hooked on the drama of being kept on our toes.

 ‘Maybe this time he’s changed’
 ‘I think he’s finally realized that I was one of the new women who treated him well’
 ‘My hair is longer/ I’m skinnier this time around’
 ‘.. this time I have a good feeling’
 ‘He’s in a good place’

Yep.. you’re pretty much doomed at this point. Its as though they can smellan indulgent heart and are happy to go along for the ride until you show signs of actually causing any impact on their time or other prospects. That or a new edition of Halo comes out.

I’ve kicked quite a few of these hangers-on to the curb over the years but generally it takes at least one smack to the head from my girlfriend or the complete humiliation of sitting around for a few hours in thigh highs waiting for him to show up. (I cringe, it’s true). But apart from the occasional humiliation, what’s the harm you might ask? Everyone needs a friend with benefits right?

I would totally agree… except these hangers-on aren’t really friends and the benefits are pretty unreliable. I’d be totally ok if there were some kind of unwritten rule which says ‘I’m contacting your for sex and only sex’ and then – ta-daaa – he’s on your doorstep with 2 bottle of Gatorade!! but it never quite works out like that. There are text messages, the occasional email.. and sex if it happens, its so random, its like finding out you’re part of a class action suite and getting a $5.36 check in the mail from AT&T. Great.. but unexpected. The complete lack of certainty makes it almost not worth the bother. Since the texting boomerang is typically nothing more than a booty call, I say please follow through or don’t hit send. Its only the only decent thing to do.

I’m an A type – I need reliability, rules, structures, parameters and these ones who ‘never quite go away’ are more inconsistent than AT&T in the Colorado mountains.

So here’s a message for the ones who never quite go away.

“Please fish or cut bait Mr.Boomerang. I’m deleting your number and I’m not replying to your texts. You can call me and we can schedule something (bring Gatorade), but no more hanging around on my iPhone please. Goodbye”

(…but I’m always up for a drink if your bored)

Finding a date: Fresh to Market

Despite our technologically obsessed workplaces and unceasing levels of communication, many people would think that finding a date these days is easy. After all, we’ve all see those commercials featuring Mr. Creepy Old Man talking about ‘true compatibility’ and who hasn’t got a friend who met their boyfriend/ husband/ex on match.com?  Finding someone to date is easy right?
Wrong. 
As any person over the age of 40 can tell you, finding a non psychotic, vaguely attractive person in your age range is more challenging than anything Tom Cruise can pull off while hanging from a wire over a computer. For now I’m ignoring people who like to date waaaaay out of their age range (sorry cougars and cradle robbers), but for those who consider a 2-5 age difference their target demographic, sorry to break it to you, its tough out there.

Online dating is great for finding weirdos, freshly minted divorcees, girls with massive insecurity issues, angry people and hermits. Sure, there are the occasional sane cute ones, but they are rarer than Jewish athletes. For the rest of us, those ‘plenty of fish’ are missing a fin or two and probably have crossed eyes. Most are – like perch – immediate throw backs. If you want to get laid, great.. go right ahead. If you actually want to date, this ain’t the way to go.

So if you’ve given up in online dating (something I’ve done with more fervor and frequency than actually ‘go on dates’), the question arises 4 months into an dry spell – how do I meet someone?

Three words – Fresh to Market

Sure its not a location, because location is irrelevant. I know someone who met and married a guy she met at a drunken frat party (when she was waaaaaay out of college) and the number of people who get busy over the photocopier at work really should be included in the ‘Benefits’ package. You can meet guys everywhere (except my apartment), but when you meet them is everything.

Fresh to Market is everything at 40-ish.

One of my girlfriends met her long term ‘partner’ while rebounding from her 13 year marriage, another met her partner by playing ‘friendly shoulder’ after his divorce which turned into hooking up and eventually dating. Both chicks found a partner when they (or he) were ‘fresh on the market’. Why is ‘fresh’ on the dating market so important? Because they don’t know better. If you’re the first and you’re not an absolute ogre.. then you’re in. And nobody is more susceptible to your charm that someone who’s been through a painful time and needs to feel good about themselves. If you can deliver some warm and fuzzies (or maybe an orgasm) .. well… you’re through the front door at least. My advice? Hear about a breakup? Get on the phone, on the doorstep and into your role as lead sympathizer and cheerleader. Its how Harry got Sally after all?
NOTE: And no, you can’t cause the divorce or the breakup. No one likes a psycho as a girlfriend. A lay sure, but not a girlfriend.

‘Fresh to market’ doesn’t always mean newly dumped.  My guy friends always seem to meet women who are working in town on secondment, temporary assignment or those who have moved to town for a new job.  All of them acted as local host, did the Lannies Clock Tower/ Peaks Pike/ Ski day/ First Friday activities and all of them ended up married. I repeat – all of them ended up married to that chick. Now I’m not advising you to camp out at DIA with a sign, but if you hear someone is new to town, reconsider your level of enthusiasm about the Aquarium.

Finally, ‘fresh to market’ can be much less obvious. It seems to happen (more often than you’d think) that one day a guy wakes up and thinks ‘ huh .. being married = not that bad’ and stops thinking that every woman wants to be ordering china after the 3rd date. Suddenly his first dates are actually not about getting laid (it fact it becomes a liability), but about auditioning women for long term potential. Its not so much about short term fun but whether he can see himself dealing with the baggage your bringing once those cute crows feet look like canyons.. Sure most guys will tell you that they’re always ‘looking’ but as we know.. thats also the best way to get a chicks pants off. The guys who are looking… tend to not mention it. But as a chick with many guy friends, I can assure you that you can actually see the ‘available’ bulb go off (and I start counting down the days to ‘we’re engaged’). Early warning signs include mentions  that ‘all my friends are married’ and an daily text messages that don’t involve the words ‘ what are you wearing?’

So, how do you find one of these unicorns?

If I knew that, I’d be wearing a ring now wouldn’t I??

Friends with friends with babies

I have a dirty secret. (and no it doesn’t involve garters)

Try as I might, I struggle to be friends with friends who have babies. Note, not kids. Kids are awesome. But babies…????
 Let me explain before you form your lynch mob and light the torches.

As a 40 something without kids, (through circumstance and genetics), I’ve seen over a dozen friends through engagements, marriages, their first, second and yes third babies so I speak from experience.
I’m thrilled for the life choices that my friends have made, have supported their decisions and been there to walk their dog, house sit, coo over diamond rings and silk dresses, maternity pedicures and yes, even visits to the delivery room. But once the baby arrives.. well its a whole other story. My pink slip is already in the mail.

I think that babies are cute. I’m not a monster. But I don’t seem to love babies the way other women love babies. I’ve never squealed when meeting one and they all seem….well…. samey. Plus they have a hole in their head.
Let me say that again..They have a hole in their head. 
Something which in a grown up person would cause people to scream, be rushed into the ER, put on life support and have to wear one of those head brace things… nope, baby just lolls around with that hole flapping in the breeze. I mean, mothers don’t even make them wear helmets. And I’m no safety expert but I don’t think that pink fleece cap is going to do much if their brains start falling out…
No, babies are weird, scary and they don’t do anything.

Now I’ll hold and play with one if I’m forced (which I have been), but its like someone giving me a kitten. I’ll hold it, stroke it and coo… but after a little while, I’m good. Unless its going to suddenly offer up a Woody Allen-equese ‘bon mot’… well… I might as well be holding a piece of veal. Even my nieces… I felt immediately attached to them and find them just adorable.. but as babies…. not my first choice of dinner companion. Maybe I am a cold soulless bitch and maybe its because they’re not mine, but I just skipped the gene which determined ‘must.have.one’ around my middle thirties. Which is where it gets tricky.

Because your friends with babies don’t like to be around people who don’t love their babies. Which means that about 1-12 months after the arrival of little Sasha, Simone or Emily, I’ll no longer be invited over, the calls will stop and I’m basically in the cold zone until the kid starts school. Which means I’ve lost more friends over the last 10 years than I did through elementary school, high school and college.  (I was quite the annoying little rat)

But surely that’s a good thing you ask? if you don’t like babies, why would you want to hang out with them?

Great point.

But those babies, they come with parents attached. And those parents used to be my friends. And with the arrival of babies comes a shifting of priorities which puts good friends second, and good friends who aren’t into babies, don’t want a baby and can’t have a baby, pretty much in the trash heap.
And because you’re meant to love babies, and understand the life is different now, you’re meant to accept with a knowing smile and a positive affirmation. Yes, we understand that its 1) sleep, 2) work 3) each other and maybe 11) call a friend…. but it still sucks. And when it happens over and over again.. it doesn’t get any less sucky.

So today, I’m saying it out loud. It sucks that I can’t be friends with friends who babies. It sucks to be dumped by friends because we don’t share that one thing in common.

But on a good note, they all start rolling back in when the stinker starts first Grade.

All by myself.. I’m gonna be… all.. by… myself….

The curse of living alone is that you’re just that. Alone.

Note, I didn’t say lonely. As anyone who’s been by their bad self for a while, we’re not really a people who get lonely. If we did, we’d have partnered up a long time ago with one of the more charming people we’ve met along life’s pathways.  Which isn’t to say that we don’t want to be partnered – this blog is evidence of that alone. (my god have I tried)
 
Last night I spent a lovely few hours chatting with a friend over some wine. She mentioned with a husband out of town she ‘got a taste’ of what it was like to be a singleton when she was invited out with a few married couples.

‘It felt weird so I didn’t go……’

‘.. you know… being the only single person’

I get it. To those who’ve been partnered happily for a while, the idea of going places as a lone reed in a marsh of married folks is strange, lonely, uncomfortable even. But for those of us who don’t have that security blanket, we grow thicker skin and have get on with it. We often prefer it.  (except during flu and snowstorms… and if there’s a really scary spider in the bath). If we waited to be partnered  in order to leave the house we’d all have melded to the sofa and have to be airlifted out of our houses by our match.com dates.

Nope, being alone isn’t lonely. But you are alone.

Which during times of acute stress can be the most isolating feeling in the world. You don’t have that person to unwind with, that sensitive ear to unload into, that ability to unburden to the person sharing your bed. Unloading whats going on in your head allows you to create space in your brain, which leaves room for perspective, humor, even joy. And being alone means that to do that, you’re paying a therapist $100 an hour or upping your ATT wireless plan (and testing some very long term friends). You’re also being incredibly brave and trusting. Which is no small thing for life’s alone-rs.
I’m not sure if its the same for guys, after all, they’re not know for being the worlds best communicators, but I’m sure… sometimes… it has to be. And since guys don’t talk… what do they do?
If my neighbor is anything to go by, playing the bass guitar and chanting…if my ex was a benchmark, riding 100 miles seemed to do the trick. And for most guys, I guess that’s ‘why‘ football.

(really, why else football???)

Being alone can cause you to wake up at 3am in a panic about something minor, because its been bouncing around your head for 2 weeks and you’ve not been able to get rid of it.
On the upside you can have a dinner of cereal and wine, on the downside… well cereal and wine.
Thankfully being alone has taught me one thing… you’re never actually alone.

People, friends, strangers, family, ex hook ups, that hinky guy from the apartment opposite… you are never alone. You can choose to be alone any time you wish.. but you can also choose not to shoulder everything in life alone. And this year I choose not too. Its only 3 weeks in but I’m not going it alone in everything anymore. You don’t get prizes for handling everything yourself and frankly, I can’t afford the Valium prescriptions any more. I might not be unburdening myself to a partner, but I will share when I need to and not feel any shame or embarrassment when I do so.

So, friends, readers, strangers, gird your loins. I’ve got some things on my mind and stories to tell.

New year, a new dating process


 After watching my painful dating progress over the last 6 years, a close friend of mine with excellent judgement suggested a new process by which I should select dates. Since I’m a fan of process improvement and efficiency, not to mention leveraging others core competencies (can you tell I’ve been consulting today?).. I’m thinking of adopting it.

All future dates will meet and ‘pseudo date’ her. She will cover all first date type material and hit the areas I typically don’t consider until I’m tied up in the trunk/ running from a bear/ looking at an engagement ring in an outstretched hand.

You know, little things like ‘ do you have a job?’ ‘ do you live with your parents?’  ‘how long should you date someone before its considered long term’ oh and my personal favorite, ‘ do you like sleeping with men?’  (yes, 3 so far, and apparently I’m still not learning). She’ll go through the boring crap (siblings, parental relationship, childhood traumas) and screen out the messes. Aided by a complete lack of interest in them herself (our tastes couldn’t be more disparate), she can actually assess the candidates rationally, instead of mooning them across the bar as I tend to after the second martini.
They don’t actually get to meet me of course, not until she deems them 1) sane 2) not looking for mommy 3) smart 4) not gay and 5) not hideous. Any men expressing a desire for marriage and kids before the end of the year, job hunting assistance or who possess eyes bigger than baseballs should not apply. Oh, and albinos are definitely out (that one she’ll never let me forget). She’ll also screen out fuckwits, commitment-phobes, psychopaths and idiots. All of which I tend to adore, especially if they look good in Levis.  All successful candidates will receive a ‘certification’. From these I get to choose a lover, a partner or even just a dinner date, and I get to skip the ‘is he normal?’ question which usually only hits me when I sober up or I’m in a car with him 1100 miles from Denver.
I love it. Efficient, practical and by adding a middle man, instead of a bottleneck its kind of like my own quality control team. Plus it hits the key gap in my process (I prefer to dwell on someonesforearms or how well they make risotto).

Now she just needs to move to Colorado to start the process. Or I’m going to be waiting a fucking long time for a date