Facing Your Lions

door-knocker

Last week, I was a chaperone at the UW Engineering Expo with a bunch of kids, including my eldest girl.  It was bedlam and pandemonium, but she really liked looking at the exhibits, and I really wanted to go.  As we all got on the buses to trek over to the engineering campus, I ended up sitting near her teacher who told me that all kids in her grade in the school district were going.  So she might end up seeing some friends from her old school.  When Rowan found out about that she was excited about possibly seeing some of her old friends, including her old crush.

As it happened, we didn’t bump into her old friends, but we did meet Boy #1, from her old school.  She  got nervous and didn’t know what to say.  She kept going back to try to talk to him, getting flustered, and leaving.  Good thing he was completely oblivious.  He was hanging out with his guy friends and didn’t pay much attention.  She told me privately that she had always liked him, but that she also liked Boy  #2 from her new school and was nervous about bumping into him too.  Later on, we did come across Boy #2, who left his friends to specifically come up and say hi to her.

When we got home, she wanted to know my opinion about her chances with either of them.  I told her that Boy #1 seemed like he barely remembered who she was, didn’t make much effort to speak to her, and stayed with his friends.  He didn’t seem interested  But Boy #2 saw her before she saw him, and specifically came up just to say hi, alone.  He did seem interested.  But of course, who really knows?

I let it drop and we didn’t talk about it until a few days later.  I was putting the girls to bed.  After I turned off the lights, I laid by her for awhile and we talked in the dark.  There’s something about lying parallel in the dim light, not looking at each other directly, that leads itself to dropped boundaries and naked thoughts.  She asked me again about the two boys and if I thought they liked her.  How can you tell?  I told her the truth–there’s no foolproof way to tell.  The only way to *know* is to put your cards down first and ask.

“But how do I do that?” she asked.

I said, “Just say, ‘Hey, I like you.  Do you like me too?  Do you want to hang out sometime?’ That’s all it takes.”

“But what if he doesn’t like me?” she said.

“Then you know for sure, and you can move on.”

“But what if I get really embarrassed and start to cry and I’m outside and everyone can see?”

“Well,” I said, “That would suck and it would be embarrassing.  But it’s one period in a day and it will pass.  You would get over it and you would be okay.”

She just looked at me, skeptically.

“You don’t have to *do* anything.  If you don’t want to tell him you like him, you don’t have to.  Things can remain the way they are.”

“But I like him! I want to know.”

“Then, you’re probably going to have to take the risk.  What’s the worst that could happen?  If he likes you back, great!  If he doesn’t, you’ll be sad but you will get over it.  But I will tell you this–lessons like this, on courage, come back. This situation will occur again in middle school, and show up in high school, and show up again in college.  You don’t have to deal with it now–but eventually, someday, you will have to deal with it.”

And then I told her the story of The Red Lion.  It’s an old book from my childhood that I have, great Persian art.  It’s about a Prince whose father dies, but to ascend to the tjhrone he must pass the test of fighting the Red Lion.  The Prince is too scared and runs away, but wherever he goes, there is always a different lion challenge waiting for him.  He realizes that until he goes home to his kingdom to fight his own lion, he will never be free.  He returns and faces the Red Lion in front of all of his family, friends, and subjects–only to find that the lion is tame.  Only fear makes it savage.  The moral of the story is, “Never run away from your lion.”

So you can imagine how proud I was that the very next day I got home and she was there, all excited.

“Mom!  I told him!  Well, I didn’t tell him, because I was too nervous, but I wrote him a note, and–HE LIKES ME TOO!”

So, so proud!  We hugged and danced around a little.  This is the part of parenting that I like.

It’s not that I’m the smartest or the wisest, but if I can circumvent the learning process, if she can learn from my mistakes, and the mistakes of others that have lived before her, that’s wonderful.  Because it took me a long time to work on being brave and courageous.  I’m still learning.

How many battles do humans fight over and over again in different generations?  How many wars are still fought, physical, spiritual, group, and individual?  You can relearn the same mistakes from the past–often it sticks more if you do–but for every challenge that is overcome, there is a new future to be written.  If we got over ourselves, got over being worried about being rejected, worried about baring our souls and our naked vulnerability, knowing that no matter how cruel people were, we could handle it–how much more could we accomplish?  This is what I want the next generation to face.

We think we know how to live a life.  Get good grades, go to college, marry and have kids–it a script for the American dream.  The real dream isn’t about being a certain way, having certain things.  The human race has accomplished many things, solved problems that now seem easy, and we arrive into an uncertain future.  We leveled up.

So the boss battles are that much harder, and require a different approach.  I don’t want my daughter to fight the same kind of battles that I did.  I don’t mind that the challenges will be unknown–that is the nature of the game.  Part of the risk is not knowing what you’re stepping into.

But I look at my life–my middle class, comfortable life–and I feel blessed.  This existence of mine, in this location and in this timestream, is a gift.  It is the manifestation of the dreams of people who came before me. It is a life partly of my own making and partly the making of my ancestors who dared to dream this dream.  I want Rowan and her classmates and the next generations to skip the old tests of courage and go into new ones.  That’s how you open new worlds, and start to manifest new dreams.

You Only Need One, Part II [Or, You Can’t Handle Too Many Jams]

jams

Options – they’re fun to have, but don’t let them paralyze you, or distract you from what you really want.

There’s a classic study on choice that shows that though humans tend to think more choices are better, there is a tipping point where too many choices can be paralyzing (Sheena Iyengar, Columbia University, 1995).  Here’s an except from an article on it in 2010:

In a California gourmet market, Professor Iyengar and her research assistants set up a booth of samples of Wilkin & Sons jams. Every few hours, they switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. On average, customers tasted two jams, regardless of the size of the assortment, and each one received a coupon good for $1 off one Wilkin & Sons jam.

Here’s the interesting part. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.

If you do the math, 1.8% of customers bought from the 24 jam selection; 12% bought from the 6 jam selection.  That’s a 666% difference.  The sin of envy in a diabolical number.

This is the problem of online dating in a nutshell.  If you’re not careful, it feels like there’s always someone a little bit better waiting around the corner.  Don’t settle!  Look where the grass is greener, it could be yours!  Forgetting, of course, that it’s not just about what you want, or who you want – who wants you?  What do they want? Do these desires and preferences overlap?  Because if they don’t, you are in for a world of disappointment.

Date Here

It’s funny when I read manosphere blogs.  They’re just as bad as ultra-feminist blogs. “Fat chicks, they’re ugly, they should lose some weight to attract men.”  “The Patriarchy, putting us down, I refuse to shave my armpits in protest because a real man will adore my feminine sweat!”  As though there is a right or wrong way to be.  There are only effective and ineffective ways to be, depending on what you want.  Are you a good match for what you desire? That is the thing to focus on.  Or are you a mismatch?

I have certain options–less than some, more than others.  I am 40 – is this a bad thing or a good thing?  Depends on the audience.  For a 25 year old guy, this a liability.  For a 50 year old, this is a nice “younger” age.  I’m not looking for a 25 year old, so being rejected by a 25 year old doesn’t even come into my consciousness.  It’s completely irrelevant.

I have kids – some guys would consider this also a liability.  So what?  I’m not looking for guys that hate kids or want their own biological kids.  Again, a mismatch that I don’t care about.  And personally, all other things being equal, I would prefer a man divorced with kids, if only because he would understand the trials and tribulations that come along with that.

Dating is not about a single ranking number, it’s more a list of attributes that fit with a potential partner’s priorities and interests.  If I was filling out a character sheet for my dating prospects, it might look like this:

Nokomis – Ranger Class

Height/weight proportionate and works out:  +10 in physical attractiveness

New England [Yankee] honesty:   -4 in Midwest social graces

Wear glasses: -2 in facial attractiveness

Bellydance proficiency:  +5 in gracefulness. +3 in sexual attractiveness (based on male fantasies)

Intelligence: +5 in conversation; subclass: interesting topics

Humor: Highly variable.  +10 for deviant freaks like me who are not easily offended.  -10 for those who only like good clean fun.

So, for the right guy, I’m a perfect match.  For the wrong guy, I am not what he wants.  That’s okay.  I am looking for someone specific, someone extraordinary.  I want to adventure on a life quest, and my character should complement theirs. I don’t care that what I’m looking for is a small pool of people.  I’m looking for a real match–I don’t even need 6 jams.  I only need one.

You Only Need One, Part I

cards

Dating is so interesting, you learn so much about yourself as well as other people.

It’s been a few years since the marriage ended and I’ve been on my own.  Though I’ve dated here and there, I finally feel like I’m ready to go back into a long term relationship if I find the right person.  Of course, I’ve felt this way before, jumped in, then realized – nope, not ready.  Thought I was, but I’m not.

I like reading things about relationships.  When I was in my marriage and things were bad, I read the Talk About Marriage forums.  You see people in all stages – new and excited, new and disappointed, old and loving, old and burnt out.  I also like dating advice sites like Evan Marc Katz, who is the perfect advice columnist for me – practical and from a man’s view, but understanding what a woman wants.  I will sometimes read The Rules Revisited for brutal honesty or The Spiritual Rules of Engagement for kind truthfulness.  (Great book, highly recommended, btw).  Apparently, it’s a thing for divorced women to be bitter, which I don’t get.

See, I don’t fear getting hurt.  It’s like, bitch, I ended a 15 year marriage after years of soul-searching and desperately avoiding my sadness.  You think a 3 month relationship that ends will destroy me? Oh, boo hoo.  It might hurt a little, but compared to the emotional Holocaust of divorce that I survived, it’s nothing.  Bring it.  I’m not afraid.  What I am afraid of is hurting someone else – I’m learning to accept that in my search I might hurt someone else without trying to.

When I was a teenager and feeling in despair, I started reading books on relationships.  I figured that if I ever managed to get married, I was going to be worth be married to.  I was going to make my man happy.  I was going to be the awesomest wife.  I read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and learned people want to be accepted, listened to, and loved as they are.  In a marriage be kind – and be up for sex because it means more than you think.  Never criticize or humiliate a man in public.  Be respectful, easy going, and generally happy, don’t dump on a guy when he first gets in the door.  It may have been written years ago, but I don’t think men or relationships have changed that much.  And I was a pretty decent wife.

But it still ended.  Good people, both of which deserve to be loved, can still make a mess of things.  Sometimes people end up going on different paths, growing in different directions.  I forgive him.  I forgive myself. What I didn’t dare to think of though for a long time is what I want.  What do I want in man?  I knew intelligence, kindness, emotional strength, humor were all musts, but I avoided thinking about physical attributes.  It seemed so crude. I didn’t really know what the hell I wanted.  I wanted to be desired, I knew that.  Our marriage lasted for a long time because he never stopped desiring me.  I was always sexy to him.  But we fought about sex all the time!  Years of fighting about sex, god, that sucked.  And it became a pivotal pain point because I never wanted him as much as he wanted me, and I couldn’t admit that even to myself, though he knew the truth in his bones.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want sex – there seemed no reason.  I thought he was handsome, smart, funny–but I just didn’t want it. So I felt terribly guilty all the time and he, terribly frustrated.  Both of us continually compromising and both of us unhappy.  Both of us feeling like we were shitty people, just by being ourselves.

This is one thing I admire about men.  If they can’t see themselves having sex with you, they won’t approach you for a date.  It is completely pointless.  But it’s only one attribute.  It’s akin to the first step in screening resumes – typos?  Not even worth the time to look further.  Not sexy to me?  Well, that’s it then, we’re done.  And usually it only takes a few seconds for a man to decide whether physically he could see it working or not.  Of course, women can still wreck it.  You can be hot, but be stupid or mean or shallow or entitled or psycho and that’s it for a man that wants a meaningful relationship.  Being hot is not an automatic in to a man’s heart.  Just like being a hot man is not an automatic in to a woman’s heart.

We get caught up in our options and stop focusing on the goal.  Isn’t the goal to have a shared partnership in life?  One where you share your body, your time, your dreams, your soul, your fears and your joys?  All of it?  You only need one good match to get there.

The problem is the options.  We have a problem with accepting truth and working with what you’ve got.  And we have a problem with the approach of observing how we feel around a potential partner instead of trying to check off certain boxes, as though that will ensure happiness.  There’s an old joke that women want the three 6’s – 6 feet, 6 figures, 6 inches.  But checkboxes don’t encompass a good match!

So what if he’s 6 feet?  The best sex I’ve had was with men shorter than that.  (I have a hypothesis that people who feel like they’ve been marginalized tend to be better lovers – once they get a person to bed, they make damn sure s/he has a good time.  [Not a theory since I have too few data points, but look for my scientific paper: “Bald, Short, and Hairy: Your Best Next Lover” 😉 ])

Six figures?  Great, but what if he has no generosity?  Six inches?  Okay, I’m not going to lie, that’s nice.  But really the point is can you feel your man inside of you?  It’s pretty much a yes or no question and if it’s yes, there’s no problem.  And that’s a two-to-tango attribute in any case.

These are the things that really matter: In the early stages, do you want the same kind of people that want you?  What do you have to offer a potential partner?  How does a potential partner make you feel?  How do like to be loved?  How does a potential partner want to be loved? (Check out The 5 Love Languages on how you prefer love to be presented. I used to prefer the poetry, flowers, and songs.  Now I want the guy who will take my car and get the oil changed. 🙂  Ooh, ooh and dinner is good too.  My stomach has always led to my heart, ha!)  And the killer question that I’ve been wrestling with as a straight woman – what kind of man would I still want to have sex with 10, 20, 40 years down the road?

A Heart, Broken Open, Always Has Room For More

Rowan11

I love You

I love you more than the sun, or the moon, or the stars.

I love you more than anything at all.

And through time these words and feelings will never be erased.

–Rowan

I’ve been reclusive lately.  Getting things in order.  For awhile, I haven’t felt like I’ve had the energy to make every area of my life quite what I’ve wanted it to be.

So, I’ve been tackling it one bit at a time.  Organizing this, paying off that debt.  But when I feel like my life isn’t as ordered or in as control as I think it should be, I find a poem like this, written for me, and I realize I’m not doing too badly.  Not bad at all.

Rowan turned 11 this week.  Light of life, light of my heart, I can still be in awe how much joy she brings into my existence.  I am grateful that right now, this part is easy.  It is easy to be there for her, to tell her the truth (as I see it), to guide her into how to think for herself.  Because in the future, it will be all on her to think through things, consequences, outcomes, how the threads of life coalesce.  Make her own determinations, rely on her gut and her logic to form a well-lived life.  I just didn’t think it would be this fun.

I’m on Match.com and dating; but having this, a strong relationship with my preteen daughter and knowing that my friends have my back, makes it so much easier.  Knowing that I don’t lack.  That love will come when it’s time, that appreciating love in all its forms makes it easier to attract what I want.  That my life would be enough as it is, but that there’s always room for more – more fun, more joy, more light, more love.

Spring is coming. . . and I cannot wait.