Strange feeling

Maybe this should be my Tinder profile. If I was on it…which, yuck.

I’ve said it in the past, but this recent breakup has only affirmed my inclinations. I enjoy companionship and being in a committed relationship, but I abhor dating. But unfortunately it is a necessary evil to navigate the hearts and minds of two different people to understand compatibility. Those early moments are nice when you have an attraction, that spark that makes you giddy with excitement over the next time you’ll get to see them, the next clever thing you’ll say in a text message, or even the grand gesture you have in store to sweep them off their feet.

But as time passes, you begin to discover differences as well. Like how one of you likes 70s and 80s Progressive rock and the other would rather listen to 90s R&B. Those are little things and pretty trivial, but sometimes they pile up. At my age, each passing year or decade means that you have built another layer onto that wall between yourself and someone else.

I know at my age, I face a few limitations. For one, I’m nearly 45. My birthday is in September. I like whiskey, Diesel brand cigars, and cool hats if you want to send me anything (size 7 3/8). One of the limitations I have is that dating someone close to my age usually means someone who might not be able to keep up with me physically. This is an observation of how most adults my age are either crazy active physically, or have let themselves go to the point were walking from the car to the bar is the most activity they do. I’m not really into Yoga and crossfit and the physical abuse those who are truly obsessed with keeping the hands of Father Time at bay either. There has to be a middle ground.

The alternative is dating someone younger than me, which means likely someone who has put off having a kid to pursue their career. They might be looking to start a family. I know that I just don’t have it in me anymore. My son, as awesome as he is, wears me the hell out. For someone who often daydreams of the day when they don’t have to worry about keeping anyone else alive, or paying child support, it would have been much more convenient if he had been born a few years earlier. I’m ready to be done with kids for a while, but I will cherish these next few years when my son is at that age where kids are fun and not yet assholey teenagers.

But there are days, as active as I am, where I don’t want to run and jump and play and I just want to have a mellow day. Which does indeed suck for him. I think my dad hit that point at 32 though.

So, yes, younger women are off the list too. Not to mention the few times I have been out with someone ten years or more younger than me we don’t have a lot in common. When they talk about Arthur the Aardvark, it’s based on their own viewership, unlike mine, which was always under duress because it’s what was on the TV while I was trying to get my kids to school. There’s a good chance that if you were born during the Clinton Administration, we won’t have much to talk about.

My former gf said early on, “I’m done raising children and boyfriends.” I think I might have adopted that philosophy. My son being the exception to the rule of course.

So, dating…

Not since unrestricted submarine warfare has there been a more extensive use of subtrefuge, tactics, and sitting around waiting for the other to make a mistake than dating. I have no desire to interpret red flags or sort through the incoming data of what is bullshit and what is real anymore. I don’t care to get to know what someone’s favorite songs are anymore, learn the names of their childhood pets, or other information that will probably just get shitcanned anyway once everything falls apart. I am also done with trying to coordinate times to see each other, growing intimacy, building on healthy communication skills, and the big one: allowing myself to trust again.

Even if I meet someone who knocks my socks off, odds are that she will have cats, and that’s a deal breaker. Always with the stupid cats.

Dating these days is fucked anyway. Quite a few of my female friends have heard my stories of grand gestures for women I was in relationships and they have been amazed. Their reaction is usually “Nobody has ever done anything like that for me!” The sad truth is at this point, there are only a few of us left who are stupid enough to make grand gestures. In this dating climate, you either get called a Simp or you throw these grand gestures at women who take them for granted, or never experienced them because the women that have come before them burned these poor bastards out on grand gestures.

Right now, if the end result is the same from phoning it in vs. grand gestures, what do you think your man is going to pick? This is why men send dick pics to women rather than having any kind of meaningful conversation. Chances are that women who are on these sites don’t want coffee brought to them at work on a lark. They just want that D. The common ground is people are all on online dating to scratch that itch.

Nobody would even know what to do with a grand gesture at this point anyway.

So, the strange feeling that I have is I’m just done. I anticipate my singleness to last quite a while, without anything romantically fulfilling in the foreseeable future. I have my son to take care of. My book to write. And time to think. Over time, I’m sure I will build up my wall with my own personal opinions, biases, and boundaries that I won’t see how it would ever be practical to let anyone in anyway.

Future deal breakers would probably be “I think people who don’t put ketchup on their hamburgers are awful.” Or “Your car takes Premium gas only? Well, when the Revolution comes, I hope Robespierre cuts your head off in the first round.” Some petty Jerry Seinfeld shit right there.

Believe me, the last go around, I gave and received a good deal of grand gestures. But that doesn’t change anything about how it all ended. It was a nice journey while it lasted, but I’m just tired. The idea of getting to know someone to those depths again…I just can’t. I look at my friends trying to make sense of their relationships, and I think there are better uses for my time. Like watching a new Netflix series.

This is not a world for the Romantic at heart. It’s a world for selfish assholes looking to scratch that itch. People looking for attention, validation, approval. I don’t fit in.

So, the strange feeling that I have is contentment. Companionship is a wonderful, amazing thing (when it works). Believe me, when it doesn’t work and you are stuck with that person, and I speak from experience, there is no worse hell on this world. Yesterday I went on a solo adventure. I didn’t have to coordinate times, I didn’t have to wait for anyone, and no one had to wait on me. It was a full afternoon of new experiences that I had just for myself. I get to enjoy those moments too. I don’t need anyone to bear witness for my life. Well, other than my faithful readers. That much is nice. I don’t need to worry about keeping anyone awake at night because I can’t sleep, and I don’t need to have that pit in my stomach telling me something is wrong or that someone is drifting away based on how they worded a text.

This way is fine. Do I sound bitter? Okay, that’s fair. Maybe I am. But that is just another layer of bricks in my wall which is called a Defense Mechanism. Sometimes it’s lonely, but otherwise, it’s doable. And I don’t need to second guess myself based on the behavior of others. Maybe one of these days I can move somewhere that allows pets. Definitely not a cat.

The Steves

Today I’m going to talk about a social phenomena.  I call it, the Steves.

The experiences listed here are from a combination of friends of mine.  Since they were all so similar, I decided to combine them into one person.  No offence to any of my friends named Steve.

Veronica

A few years back, a good friend of mine was a serial dater.  We will call her Veronica. She had anywhere between 3 to seven dates lined up every week.  eHarmony.  Match.  Christian Mingle.  She had her pick of guys on a rotating door coming in and out of her life.  Dates could include anything from just going out to getting coffee or lunch to first row 50 yard line at the opening  Broncos game.  Yes, for a first date.

Out of the menagerie of men we began to notice there was a pattern.  The vast majority of them were named Steve.  She began to number them “Steve #99,945.  Steve #44,563.”  There were a lot of Steves.  Some Steves were laborers.  HVAC guys who were 420 friendly and liked to unwind–pretty much four or five times a day.  Other Steves were “Town People” who lived on estates with adjoining airports that the “Country People” weren’t allowed to use.  (Honestly, I had driven by that Steve’s part of the city more than a few times and never even knew they had an airport.  I guess that means I’m Country People).

The Steves

I met my share of Veronica’s Steves.  It was fun at first.  Sometimes I would play the discerning father-type of “Don’t stay out too late,” to get into practice for my own kids.  Or I would attempt to be friendly, put them at ease, because guys are funny about that.  I know I have been myself, and if a guy doesn’t let you know he is harmless right out of the gate, he isn’t.

Even the Roberts, Marks, Dans, and Alejandros became Steves after a while.

The Steves had almost no personality either.  You could really only identify them by their obnoxious traits.  There were categories.  The Steves who stood her up. The Steves who propositioned her for sex after driving her home from dinner.  The Steves who sent inappropriate videos of themselves. When she wouldn’t respond, they were often cruel in their language. Abusive.

Just to let any guys out there know.  If you send a dick-pick, the woman you sent it to will share it with her friends.  They will critique your manhood, and never in positive ways.  And if she doesn’t want to see your crooked, dead-baby-bird looking junk, whatever you do, don’t call her the C word for her trouble.

Just don’t.

The Steves would often bring flowers, or what I called “Sexy Food”.  Trays of cheese, sliced meet, crudites.  Things that you can feed your amour by hand as you sit on the floor in front of a fire.  Wine.  Whenever they had to meet her friends, they would be all smiles.  Firm handshakes.  Lots of talk of “did you see that game last night?” and “What is it you do?”

What do I do?  Professional cock-blocker, that’s what!

To my female friends, I am their wing-man.  To a woman, a wing-man is someone (male or female) who gets her out of trouble.  A wing-girl is a female friend who gets them into it.  For men, a wing-man is someone who uses counter-espionage to intercept the girl’s wing-man.  A wing-girl is someone who tells him how to interpret signals, subtleties, and green lights to get into trouble with the girl he is attempting to chat up.

A man who is helping his female friend get into trouble, is a schmuck.  Women really don’t need any help to get into trouble when there are men around.  Trouble finds them.

Hilarity ensues

One time, Veronica accidentally/intentionally invited two Steves to the same party.  Neither of them knew they were her date.  As she was freaking out, asking me what the hell she was doing, I looked over and noticed the Steves were sharing a table. They both seemed to be getting along fine with each other.  I think they might have made friends.  They both went home without her.  She was relieved, and after learning that lesson (that life isn’t hilarious 1980s sitcom plot) she never had two dates over for the same party since.

Another time, Veroncia was visited by a Steve who just showed up with his kids to her grandfather’s birthday party.  Everyone at the party was wondering who the hell he was, and why he was there.  After a while, I think Steve wondered the same thing himself.

The Types

The men for women in their forties are varied, but the data shows some distinct trends.  Younger men go for “cougars” because they aren’t looking for anything lasting.  They like the idea of sex without strings attached because they are dating someone without the likelihood of having children with them.  For the most part, men in their 40s are in mid-life crisis mode and are dating women in their 20s or early 30s who aren’t ready to have families and who are (yes, I’ll paint with broad strokes here) looking for a Sugar Daddy.

This leaves men in their 50s and 60s who have gotten too old for the young young women.  These men are sick of the bullshit.  They brag about their big houses, their nice cars, careers, their model ex-wives who took everything, and their season tickets.  They also don’t give a shit about your feelings.  They feed on the women who think that is the best they deserve.  Old, broken down men who eat Viagra like M&Ms and can’t shut up about their glory days. If you won’t put out, they will call an escort who will.

The men in their 80s and higher are players.  Men don’t generally live that long, and the women of that age are happy to meet them.  Old people give zero fucks about getting their freak on. It will make you blush to hear some of the things they are up to.

Putting the damage on

In your 40s, everyone has their damage. If you read my blog, you can see plenty of mine.  I’m not saying I’m perfect by any means, but what did surprise me was how so many of the Steves fell head-over-heels with Veronica within the first one or two dates.  They professed their love for her.  They schmoozed.  They sweet-talked.  They ran the cycle of drama by the fifth date, and when she didn’t want to sleep with them, they ghosted her.  They were mean.  They would breadcrumb her; doling out just enough attention to capture her interest and then never answer her calls or texts. Some even stole things from her house on the way out.

Sometimes they acted like they wanted more. They promised they were willing to give more of themselves.  They offered to marry her, to elope, and they never showed up. Or if they did, they knocked on her door at 11pm, seduced her, and never talked to her again.  Some of the Steves would tell her they loved her while they were sleeping with other women. Or were married.  Or secretly hoping to get back together with their ex.  Or would order her up like a pizza to their house, screw her, and then send her home via Uber.  I’m not even kidding.

She would call me in tears.  Why did this keep happening?  Were there no good men left in the world?  The reason Veronica is an amalgam of several of my friends is I have seen the same patterns for nearly all of them.  It makes you wonder if all men aren’t Steves.  It made me question if I were no different than these Steves myself.

I don’t want to be like that.  Vapid.  Disconnected.  Disposable.  Forgettable.  A user of people. Some bastard who just takes what he wants. But that kind of behavior, unfortunately, is rewarded.

I take these words to heart when I can:

…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The takeaway

Eventually, Veronica got off the websites, the apps, and decided that all the Steves were the same. From the dick-pics to the empty promises, she had enough.  It was hard to find someone, much less a man who even in the back 9 of his years was still willing to give it his best shot.

There aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. But what is true is there is one you.  If someone else won’t respect you, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect yourself.  You do have control over how others treat you.  You can ask politely that they stop, and just walk away.

I have had friends talk candidly to me about doubts they are having in their relationships.  Men and women both.  They wonder about what dating would be like after divorce.  I can safely say this: it isn’t like it was in your 20s.  The commercials for the apps lie.  The websites are garbage.  For the most part, people in their 40s are either in a committed relationship that has endured some serious shit.  If it hasn’t fallen apart by now, there are good reasons for this.  If it has, there are excellent reasons for that too.

At this age, you are like a snowball of all the years of damage you have accumulated.  Yet in the core of that, you still have the mind of someone in their 20s.  The libido.  You assume that there are people to date just falling out of the trees, like college, when everyone was young and beautiful.  When they didn’t have surly teenagers, psycho ex spouses, or that tiredness deep in their bones which results in a day of dealing with everyone’s bullshit.

You aren’t 20.  You aren’t young and hot. Not even the bag of chips you once were.  You aren’t idealistic and energetic.  What the trade off for youth is now you are older, wiser, cagier, and you don’t need Steve (or the female equivalent).  There are good people out there.  But they have been burned too.  At this age, haven’t we all?

There was a great meme I saw there other day. It said, “Don’t bleed on someone that didn’t cut you.”

Just keep being your beautiful self, I always say.  You are lovable.  You are worthy.

Red Flags

mtbtrail, hewlettgulch, mountainbike, gettingoutmore

This moment from the show Bojack Horseman really spoke volumes to me.  It comes on the heels of a recent breakup, which unfortunately, is part of what it means to get out more.  It’s the human condition.  It’s something all of us will probably encounter in our lives, especially if we venture forth into the uncharted territories of the heart.  Getting out more is as much about inner discovery as it is picturesque places to vacation.  Interpersonal relationships are hard.  Those of us who have experienced the tragedy (for lack of a more visceral word) of divorce, know this to be especially true.  So much of this journey is finding your footing again.23a4hgu3vgg11

When you are young, it might be hormones that cause you to overlook certain things, but sometimes, when you are older, your desire to have optimism after such a hurtful thing as a bad marriage or unexpected divorce can blind you as badly as testosterone or estrogen.  As you get older, there are fewer options, and all of them have baggage. Yes, myself included.

After my divorce, I was lucky enough to find someone amazing.  Things were going great, if not rocky at times, but we all have baggage.  The romance was the stuff epic poems are made of, but eventually, it came to an end– and I have found myself single again.  However, the more distance I gain from the relationship, the more the rose-colored glasses have been taken away.  And so, I have been seeing those red flags for what they were.

The Drink

A few nights ago, I was on the town.  Alone.  One of my favorite pastimes is people watching.  I enjoy going to downtown Fort Collins and watching how people behave, how they dress up for each other, and the entire fish-tank experience.  Friday night, however, as I was sitting outside a bar, having a drink by myself and watching the people.  It was a scrumpy and it was godawful.  But, I had paid $6 for it, and it was going to be consumed.  I’m cheap as well as stubborn.

A young woman walked out of the bar to have a cigarette and approached me at my seat at the patio.

“What’s up?”

“Just people watching.  How about you?” I answered.

She asked for a light, but I’m not a smoker, so I didn’t have one. She dug through her purse and found a lighter and started to smoke. We shared a conversation that went from various topics such as where either of us was from to Pickleball–which is apparently a thing.  Her name was Kelly, and she wanted to know if I wanted to come inside and play some ping pong with her and her friend Abby.  “You don’t have to be alone out here,” she said.  I agreed.  I figured I didn’t have much else to do.

Kelly got in close and tucked up against me, her arm threaded through mine as she guided me back into the bar.  She introduced me to Abby, who left a few minutes later.  Kelly didn’t look all that surprised.  To put it lightly, Kelly’s body language was aggressive. Heavily flirting, constant touching, the “Big Eyes,” etc.  She offered to buy me a drink.  I said I had better not (as the effects of the scrumpy were just now working their way into my central nervous system), and I had to drive home so I could get to bed early for a roadtrip in the morning. She informed me she only lived four blocks away and I wouldn’t have to worry about driving.

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She led me to the bar.  The bartender took her order and asked me what I would be having.  “I’m good,” I said, waving him off.  Aggressive Kelly gave me an annoyed look and so I thanked her for the offer of a drink and set back outside to enjoy my evening. Alone. I sat down at a stool inside the adjacent bar and asked for two glasses of ice water.  They asked if I wanted anything else, and I said, “No, just the water.  I just got away from someone who was super-aggressive.”  They understood and kept my glasses full.  Hashtag metoo.

So many red flags.  The good news is I have both of my kidneys, I don’t have more child support to pay someone, and it doesn’t hurt when I pee.  Yes, I am being a little melodramatic. You might even be saying,  “It was just a drink.”

The history

As I drank my water, I remembered something from my past relationship that started to eat away at me.  A few times, the woman I was dating would go out on the town with friends or trips abroad.  She would tell me later about how several men had offered to buy her drinks or would hit on her.  One night she bragged about having upwards of six drinks bought for her.  No mention of “No thanks, I’m seeing someone.” That was never brought up.

At the time, that made me feel insecure.  But I suppressed that thought.  If I brought it up, I was reminded that jealousy was unattractive.  And how none of her friends had thought it was inappropriate. It was no one’s business if she was seeing anyone.  I accepted that on faith. I shut up about it with her.

But after my experience with Aggressive Kelly, it reminded me of the ritual of going out, dating, and meeting people.  When a stranger in a bar approaches you and offers to buy you a drink, it is a minor social contract.  What they are doing is presenting you with a small gift in exchange for your time, the chance of getting to know you, and also the possibility for something more.  In accepting, you are going along with the expectation that as long as that drink (or the affects of that drink) is around, you will talk with them, dance with them, etc.  If you accept another drink, then the time is extended.  The ritual is all about options for something more.

They didn’t buy you the drink because you looked thirsty.

The takeaway

Accepting the drink, in no way, obligates you to do anything other than maybe drinking it.  But in the ritual of being single and in a bar, accepting it does come with some implications.  I had decided not to enter into that arrangement at all; it was my choice.  It cost me nothing to refuse the offer.  It hurt no ones feelings.  It was a boundary I had made, and it felt good to make.  There were no mixed signals in refusing the offer. I was not presenting myself as anything I wasn’t. I was not interested. I also learned that I have standards.

I also realized I wasn’t crazy.

I thought back to my former relationship and why it bothered me that she used to let men buy her drinks.  Sure there was the caveat of “I’m not going home with you,” she said she would tell them.  But why not simply refuse the drink? I had done it just now.  It was easy! (And I am single, I wouldn’t have been hurting anyone.)

So you're telling me There's a chance?  Dumb and Dumber - So Youre Telling Me Theres A Chance
This is what they hear when you don’t say “No thanks.”

I have asked people about this before and since.  The general consensus is “If you are dating someone, you don’t accept the drink.”  That much seemed to be common knowledge. It isn’t hard at all to say “No thank you.”  In accepting the drink from a stranger, you aren’t exactly  being trustworthy of someone you left at home while you were on the town with your friends.  And you aren’t being honest with the person buying you a drink either.  Because even if you aren’t going home with them, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other possibilities that are still on the table.  

Is hurting the trust someone has in you worth the $8 for a watered down well drink?

Relationships are hard, and trust is a major part of that. Especially as you get older and more damaged. Boundaries are crucial, as well as knowing what is good for you or not.  Anyone who has been hurt, through divorce, or just bad relationships should know this more than anyone.  But we tend to see the world through rose-colored glasses.  Taking it on faith alone that we won’t get hurt this time. That our demons and mistakes are lying to us.  We lean towards having no reservations, and when we feel hurt, we tell ourselves that’s just the past talking. The advice we get from friends is always through their lens. Sometimes, when something does hurt, or doesn’t seem right, we need to be able to pump the brakes.

Our feelings are valid. If something bothers you, you shouldn’t be afraid to discuss that with your partner (I had made that mistake). If it isn’t about this, then maybe it is about something else.  Usually the red flags are groups of red flags, building on each other to form a great big “Oh hell naw!”  Talking about them is the only reliable way to figure it out.  One day, when I am ready to get back out there, I’ll keep that in mind.  I think a lot of people get hurt over and over because they think they have to be blind to things that don’t seem right.

The truth is, you don’t.