The Marriage Goal

The Marriage Goal

According to a coworker, and that veritable institution, the Lansing Journal, 1 in 3 of all recent marriages started from an online relationship. Which means all those $39.99 fees paid off for 1/3 of 2 million unions in 2012. That’s quite astonishing, especially based on my experience.
Reading the article today does cause me to reconsider my self imposed ban from Match.com and ever so slowly consider revoking my ‘DNR’ profile. Before I type in my numbers, I need to think – is  marriage really my goal these days? I mean I really really would love someone to take me out for dinner on occasion and make me a cup of tea in the morning, but do I really want to be married again?

I loved being married to Matt – loved it. The sense of permanence (hahahha), the sense of commitment and solidity (hahah), plus I just adore men (especially those with 5% body fat). I love they way they smell, the way they look, the way they make me feel and not least, the physical comfort of sleeping every night with my leg wrapped around someone. Nothing like it. Nothing.
When it ended I couldn’t wait to recommit if only to fill the gap and not feel like the only single person in the world. Lord knows, there seemed to be a lot of guys other there as desperate as me to reseal a deal, so I quickly found I wasn’t alone in the remarriage goal. Thank god my friends and therapy helped me stop making any more bad decisions… and to retire that goal for a while.

Now I’m 6 years single and I sort of like doing my own thing. I like wandering around my apartment at 3.15am with a glass of milk, going to bed at 8pm just because or eating a dinner of chicken breast and carrot juice. Going out for drinks with 5 minutes notice or stopping off at a bar, just because.
I’m not sure I’m so eager to sign up for bristles in the sink and petty resentments. Cheating, inherent expectations around vacuuming and laundry, being a ‘Mrs’ again and the routine that seems to arise in bed. Men yes, but marriage???? The committee is out.

Divorce

Alongside those 2 million white meringues last year were 200,000 angry couples sleeping on the sofa, arguing over who owns their copy of  ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ and wondering why they spent $40,000 on a party 5 years ago. Divorce in the US (and also the UK) is high. For every 10 chicks skipping down the aisle this year, there will be one angry and sad chick lining up to file divorce papers. If you know 10 married couples, start seeing who’s getting snarky at your next dinner party because stats say that one of them will be over by the end of the year (especially if you’re living in Arkansas, Nevada or West Virginia – don’t ask me why, them’s the stats).

So, before I start googling white dresses, I guess I know that chances of happily ever after are pretty slim. But, I’m 41.. and I’ve been there before, so at this point, I’m content to settle for ‘happily this year’.  Because, terrifyingly, divorce rates for second marriages are around 60% (firsts are only 40%)..and the average dude only lives to 76 so I’m thinking marriage at this point could only really be for 20-25 years. Hardly forever. And that’s only if I didn’t kill him with my cooking experimentation first.
Still 20 years is a long time to sit across the dinner table from someone who stabs their food and I’m not known for my ability to tolerate routine. Maybe there’s a different answer?

Cohabitation

I do love living alone. Its the major bonus of being single. No-one else to pick up after, no mess other than your own (or the dogs), and for me, no-one to steal that last candy bar you were saving. If you get lonely you call a friend or go out. If you want to be alone you shut the door. No-one questions your evening attire of wifebeater and wool socks, and if I want to wear pig tails while I Swiffer in the nude, no judgement (the dog doesn’t care).
And yet… again, the sleeping in bed with someone. Back to back, spooned or even just a limb thrown akimbo across a body part. There’s something so reassuringly comforting about it. I haven’t slept in bed with someone who was sleeping, sound asleep, for years and I do miss it. When I used to wake up for my 3am worry session, there was something reassuring about stroking his back or listening to him breath.
I liked calling out ‘I’m home’ and having someone answer back (even though a tail wag also works really well these days), and on a bored Sunday, it was nice to have someone to go do something spontaneous with that didn’t involve babysitters, plans, time limits or other commitments.

Could I do it now? I’d like to think so. But then I was a lot more of a people pleaser back then. Maybe my new spine could cause some problems? Maybe I’m more rigid these days or at least more vocal when pissed off.  Maybe I need my own space where bike parts aren’t sitting in the kitchen and no-one questions why it takes me an hour to wash and dry my hair.Where I can maintain some mystery and retain the delight that is ‘dressing for a lover’. No-one needs to see me hopping around in my knickers and curlers in my hair.

A girlfriend of mine keeps her space separate from her partners – different houses for almost 10 years – and its the envy of quite a few. You retain your independence,  you can choose how often to see each other and can be yourself while also being partnered. But do I want to carry my underwear around in my purse? Would I ever feel intimate with someone who I only saw on their good days? (and vice versa). Would I want to have a ‘drawer’ in my partners abode? And is it worth the payoff of never having to pick his hair out of your razor? It feels so ‘in-between’. So transitory. And as someone who’s pretty black and white, cohabitation without a commitment – especially at this age- feels too vague for me. Clearing out a drawer only takes 5 mins and cardboard box. I think I need to know that its not that easy to be dismissed.

Dating

I’ve said a million times that I hate dating, which I do. And lord knows, no-one other than Heff wants to date as a goal. Ok, maybe people under 30.. but over 40? Dating is hell. Interviews without a job or benefits package. Naked try outs with cellulite and pot bellies. And I know for sure that I don’t want to be dating at 50 or 60. I like meeting people, but not that much, plus at 50, it would take me hours to cover the basics.. Can you imagine trying to explain the relevancy of your elementary school friend at the age of 50? How would you go about covering, say, the last 20 years?  Kill me now.

I think my goal, should I choose to accept the Match.com throw-down,  is to find someone to date for a long time. I believe they used to call it a boyfriend, though at 41, I hope I’m not dating Beiber anytime soon.  Maybe the old goal – marriage – is moot, and cohabitation too ‘in-between’ for a black and white person such as me. I probably need to dig out the goal of my 16 year old self. To find a boyfriend. Someone to hold my hand, make out in public places (though not too public), and have fun with. Someone who calls, wants to go and have adventures outside of the bedroom and who likes me, for me. Yes… I think that’s the goal I can commit to.

So Lansing Journal, thanks for the kick up the butt. I had quit the whole online dating thing after my humiliating forced departure from eHarmony, but this does make me think its worth a shot. After all  my goal might not be marriage, but surely someone can find me a date in Colorado?  Bring on the profiles Match.com . I’m saddling up for another ride. Yee-Haw!!!

Princeton Mom

In the wake of the Princeton Mom message to female undergrads at Princeton last week (summary, find your husband now before he gets snapped up and FYI my son is available), it did get me thinking. No, not about dating a 20 yr old Ivy Leaguer (icky), but about the logic of finding your mate early in life vs. finding yourself and then your partner.

Princeton Mom, however repellant her message (which actually made me want to punch my laptop screen), does echo the reality many of us dried up old sluts now face.. its hard to meet men as you get older and the pool dries up.
There’s a reason for Match.com and its not because you’re falling over eligible men as soon as you step outside of your condo. Match, or whatsleft.com as I tenderly think of it, at least provides a portal to singletons.. something that college does by virtue of parties, clubs, organized sports, classes, coed dorms and shared houses.
As a tomboy in college working on dual majors in Engineering and Economics, 95% of my classes were male dominated. I hung out with dudes all day, every day. I competed with them at the weekends during races and welded with them during labs in the week. I think I welded myself to one of them once. Dudes were everywhere. And sure, we were all 15lbs overweight, drunk 50% of the time and totally oblivious to who we were.. but the opportunity was at its maximum for meeting one of them.

Fast forward today and I work at home. All of my friends are female and any dude friends I had, got antsy, nervous and disappeared as soon as they got married. I spent my 20s working like a dog, my 30s trying on relationships and in my 40s, well to date its been a blast, but sausage fest it ain’t. I don’t know a single, single dude that’s dateable. Whats left has commitment issues, bad teeth, no character or brains, and typically, a paucity that I personally find repellant. Any smart driven dude in his 40s that attends a party or cocktail hour without a ring on his finger is likely to have 4 numbers before 6pm and one of them will be a married chick. So in a way, Princeton Mom is kind of (I hate myself), right. There really isn’t a bigger pool of guys to date then college.

Note that I said ‘bigger’ not ‘better’.

Because bigger (as we all know), doesn’t equal better. Sure there were bright and driven guys aplenty in college and in my first job in consulting. Often good looking with brains, ambition and money.. sure lots to chose from. But better?
That cute guy I dated in college now resembles Bill Gates and still spends his weekends visiting his mother. My regular college hook up practically runs McKinsey, but without his blond hair and with 20 years of expense account food, now resembles a potato. So yes, potential was huge.. but better? I’m not so sure. 

And who was I in college? A lost girl with a ‘blue collar’ chip bigger than my college loan and self esteem I couldn’t find with a microscope. Even I found Mr. Right, was I even dateable myself?  I sure did wear a lot of fleece. Plus back then I probably would have chosen the guy who could hold his ale, jibe a boat with confidence and who looked good in a wetsuit at the end of a match. Hardly essential qualifications for a life partner.
Yes you grow together and all that, evidenced by my college friend who has two kids with her old roommate, but I think even she selected him on his ability to funnel a beer and eat a curry at 3am. Luck and tolerance got them through. I’m not sure I would have been so lucky.

Would I choose differently today if I could go back?

You’re expecting me to say no?

I don’t know.

If I’d found my mate (or ‘a’ mate) in college I would have missed out on some crazy ass experiences, some incredible guys and I certainly wouldn’t have arrived at who I am or even where I am. Plus I don’t believe in do overs…
But having the chance to grow up with someone, have someone be part of who you become and not least, have someone to fall back on when you need it… I hate to admit but I can see the appeal. So while I want to rail on Princeton Mom for her retro ‘post -feminist’ advice, she has a point. It might have been nice to find a ‘partner’ before I found myself cruising eHarmony for 50 yr old chubbsters called Brian.

Having said that, at this point in my life, a ‘life’ partner might be 20 years and that actually sounds like a fucking long time. 

So maybe we call it even.

The wisdom of Dan Savage

Just in time for Valentines day…
For those who’ve been trapped under a cultural rock for the last 14 years, Dan Savage is the arbiter of all that is sensible and matter of fact in matters of sex, love and relationships. A columnist with Seattle’s ‘The Stranger’ newspaper (and syndicated all over the US), Dan also hosts a weekly podcast (‘Savage Lovecast’) that has been infecting my ears now for hundreds of episodes and has taught me a lot about things I needed to know, stuff I wasn’t sure actually happened and proclivities I never needed to learn about (‘sounding’ anyone?). I’ve listened to Dan through my 30s and now my 40s, and I wish that his advice was mandatory listening for everyone over the age of 21. It certainly would have saved me a lot of time, heartbreak and trips to the doctor. And I might have been able to make a better run at some of my paramours. Here’s some of what you’ve been missing.

Good, Giving and Game (GGG):  Dan believes that anyone hitting the sheets who wants a repeat purchase, is responsible for being ‘GGG’. That is Good – or skilled – at what you’re doing; Giving – doing things which might be not be your favorite in order please your partner (and vice versa); and Game – up for trying new things within reason (and no, wearing a diaper isn’t reasonable for most people).  Based on some of my experiences I’ve encountered more than a few guys who weren’t even a single ‘G’ (lots of Game.. not much else). And based on feedback I’ve had to work on at least one of these via step by step instructions (he was a HR guy who begrudgingly gave me a B+ and a diagram for future use).  If you’ve got complaints in the bedroom, first consider whether you’re ‘GGG’ yourself.  And no, twice a year with the lights off probably doesn’t qualify.

DTMFA: Otherwise known as ‘Dump The MotherF-r Already’. On occasion if you’re partner isn’t ‘GGG, you might need to DTMFA.The applications are too many to list, but generally revolve around selfishness, passive aggressive behavior and wanting to sleep with your mother and sister. I tend to think that if you’re more sad than happy when this person is around, it’s probably a case of DTMFA. Clearly I’m an old hand at DTMFA – I practically have it tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.

The Campsite Rule: ‘Leave it better than you found it’ also applied to people. Which means we’ve all got a duty not be screw up our partners through lying, cheating, stretching out their good underwear or having them find you experimenting naked with a hanger and the Cusinart. Especially applied to the young, inexperienced or the ‘not f-d up yet’, don’t be the man or woman, who ruins it for the next guy (or girl).  Its a lofty goal. I’m sure I’ve left at least one guy with some permanent flinches though I hear he’s doing much better these days and he can actually wear a swim cap.

F-k First: My last and favorite, especially in light of tomorrow’s “holiday” (can you feel the scathing tone?). As many of you are heading out with plans for a large fois gras/ wine/ steak laden dinner, little thought is given to how you’ll feel by the time you get home and hit the hay for some loving. Not many people want to roll around when they’ve consumed an app, entree and their partners dessert, all washed down a bottle of Cab. By then most of us are cradling our food babies and hoping that he’s too tired to make the moves. According to Dan you’ve got it all wrong. F-k first – when you’re slightly hungry, sober(ish) and awake (and well before the food baby is conceived).. that way you can slide into the restaurant with a smug expression, worry free and ready to over-indulge to your hearts content.

And for those of you who want to hear more of Dan’s wisdom, have a question about your transgendered coworker or want to know how to handle that request to wear a diaper… check out the podcast. Your partner will be glad you did. 

Sliding into marriage

A friend of mine recently made a casual reference to ‘finding a wife’ which got me thinking. Not about finding a wife (sorry, I personally can’t get into boobs), but about how marriage actually happens. Yes, I’m not retarded.. there’s a ring and a book and somebody talking, vows are said etc. But actually getting to the place of wanting to marry someone. After 40, its feels as likely as going to another planet. I mean, I haven’t made it past 12 weeks with a guy in 6 years. And its not for want of trying.. (I think medals have been given to people who’ve “given it a go” as often as I have. I am the ‘Eddie the Eagle’ of dating). Its not that I’m picky, its just that ‘it’ isn’t really there.

When I was younger, ‘it’ was everywhere and marriage seemed so certain. That was what you did. You got a job, found a guy, fell in love, lots of stars and tweety birds and then he landed on his knee and that was that.  Cue Corinthians 13 (4-7), Jerusalem and a nice big cake. Mmmmm cake. Fireworks and squeals of joy.

But my path to marriage was slightly different.

I didn’t so much squeal and jump with joy at finding my man on bended knee, as slide sideways into what I presumed was an agreement mid way through a discussion of a trip to France. He just kind of slipped it into the conversation

‘…and I guess we could get married before we left’

“….?”

“..so it would be kind of like a honeymoon”

“.. um…. okay?”

There you have it ladies and gentleman. The least romantic, non proposal, proposal.

The conversation quickly moved on to discussions about Tour de France favorites, the need for a slightly different gearing on the new fixed gear and the need for my wheels to be retuned.
My brain was so confused and shocked that I actually forgot the conversation until the next morning.

I don’t even think we had sex that night.

Nothing like waking up the next morning thinking ‘ I think I got engaged last night.. but I’m not really sure”. Note to any prospective proposers… she should know that she’s engaged after the event.

Because I was young and stupid, I didn’t see the actual conversation as a sign of his lackadaisical attitude towards the whole thing and the absence of a ring didn’t bother me (I’ve never been one for jewellery). He had just bought me a new saddle after all. I just kind of ‘slid’ into being engaged and it wasn’t until our trip loomed that I actually questioned the entire thing.

We’d lived together for close to 2 years, we’d been dating for 3 and we were over 30. We got along great in a ‘best friends’ manner and maybe that was enough. Wasn’t marriage the next step?
Having said that we’d never had a fight, and he seemed to enjoy his time on his bike than he did his time in bed with me.
The night before we were going to do ‘it’ it started snowing. In July. And I did wonder whether it was really a good idea to be so unexcited about getting married. We had no guests, no event, just an appointment to declare our love half way up a mountain. I always felt that it would seem more exciting. More certain. Committing to take life on together – surely it should feel more momentous?

Instead I found myself thinking ‘well if it doesn’t work out…’  (yes, I want to slap myself too)

And surprisingly it didn’t.

I don’t recommend sliding into marriage. I don’t think anyone (even me) should have ‘slid’ as I did with a little more thought. But throughout my 20s I fell in love every year and thought every guy was ‘it’. As my 30’s proceeded everyone seemed to be settling down, choosing their partners and relationships took on a new, more serious tenor. ‘It’ wasn’t everywhere and finding someone I liked seemed to be enough of a challenge. So when I found a guy I liked and who didn’t piss me off too much, and well, I slid.

Now I’m in my 40s, single and thickly skinned by numerous dates, the idea of marriage has shifted again. Its not just ‘what you do’. Its not around every corner and its certainly not going to be right with every guy I meet (jesus, have you read my blog?). I believe that ‘it’ is out there and worth waiting for. I’m in no hurry, but I’m not looking for perfect.  At 40 I can finally say with total honesty, I’m not looking for a husband. I’m looking for right.
So if you find yourself thinking ‘I need to find a wife’ (or husband), be warned by my ridiculous story. Find someone, but find right

My next wedding – the year 2056

I read today about an 88 year old woman getting married this weekend which got me thinking.
As someone who’s marriage ceremony probably foretold its depth and potential longevity (Bride wore Tevas, groom forgot to write vows, no-one in attendance and it snowed in July), I always have a vague longing for a wedding at the back of my mind. My wedding didn’t really signal much except doom, but I do think that saying something nice to each other, about each other, in front of some people you like, and who like you.. well that’s kind of nice. It signals commitment, and a willingness to  declare your love for someone, without getting cited for public indecency. Been there.

I was never one to daydream with tea towels on my head and people carrying my skirt, but after experiencing what was probably one of the most depressing wedding ceremony’s in history, I kind of want to do it again… except this time, a little differently. And if it takes me to age 88 to find the guy… well so be it. Gives me time to save for a nice dress.

My Wedding: Year 2056

Location: If we’re not all living on rafts or on the moon, I’d really like to get married outside. Yes, I did that last time, but this time somewhere nice and scenic. Without snow. Or hikers interrupting the ceremony for a quick photo. Potentially with mountains all around. And grass. And sun. Getting married in snow seems terrifying and too nipple-tastic for someone as blessed as me, and being able to wear a dress means heat is a necessity unless I want everyone focused on my chestical area. Plus I’ll be 88, don’t want me or my groom to die during the ceremony. So, mountains and grass in the summer please. Unless the air is now 99% carbon dioxide ..then I guess an oxygen tent would be more appropriate. Plus I always did like camping.

Ceremony: Last time this featured some strange lady chanting something vaguely hippy about the earth for about 2 minutes and then an awkward silence while my groom tried to make up his vows on the spot. This time I think skipping the entire traditional thing makes it easier. Hand fasting is an old Celtic tradition where hands are bound together  (yes, tied) with a number of different colored ribbons as the host talks about what each ‘bind’ represents (love, compassion, ability to make a decent cup of tea etc). Its terribly romantic plus it has the benefit of physically restraining your groom should he want to make a dash for it. Of course at 88 he’s probably not much for running, but if his wheelchair starts moving, I’ll be dragged along for the ride.

Attendees: A wedding is really about people. Yes, its about 2 people, but without any guests, its kind of sterile and weird. If its just about the 2 of your, why not get married in bed and why do you need a 3rd person to says things?  Nope, weddings need people. Hopefully ones who like you and are pleased to see you in love and join your celebration. Plus at 88, it can double as a funeral wake without the awkwardness of death, plus I get to be there and people say nice things about me.

Attire: Yes I wore Tevas last time and I thought it was a signal of my carefree spirit and desire for foot comfort over fashion. In actuality they looked stupid. Like wearing slippers to hike in. At 88 I’m probably in ‘comfortable shoes’ anyway, so at least this time they’ll have bows on them or something. And they’ll not be made of rubber (not unless Crocs has taken over all shoes manufacturers). I will wear a dress, even if they have to sew it around me, and it will not be white. And yes, I will wear blue underwear, though probably not a thong. No-one wants to see a thong on grandma. Unless everyone is wearing jumpsuits in 2056 and its providing life support, my groom will wear a suit. It will hide his hump and he can comfortably wear his pants pulled up to his armpits.

Honeymoon: Since I’ll be 88, the honeymoon will probably last all of about 2 days. I can’t see the love making taking all that long given that we’ll probably be nervous of heart conditions, blood pressure and deep vein thrombosis to really go crazy in the sack. We’ll probably go somewhere featuring water, enormous beds and more heat. Old people love heat. Oh god.. this sounds like Florida. So, NOT FLORIDA. Unless the world has ended and the only thing surviving is Florida. Which would just be my luck.

Happy Ever After: As a octogenarian, I hope to have a few good years left in me, even if its filled with the NYT crossword and 1960s movies starring Doris Day played at high volume. Who knows what they’ll have invented by then, maybe I’ll have 50 years left (god help my feet). Regardless I hope to spend my married life, my second married life, sharing a bed, a dinner table and some serious hand holding until the end of time (or until his gets cold and blue, in which case I probably will let go).

It will be very ‘happily ever after’ the 2nd time around… mostly because I can finally, finally, resign my match.com subscription.