I Am Not Responsible

I haven’t written in a while, largely because I’m in a relationship and I don’t think it’s fair to the person I’m dating. But since this is about an ex, it doesn’t count. I was just going to let it slide, but after having a dream about it last night I decided I probably need to just write it out.

A week or two ago I got a blank text message. It was an empty bubble from a local number that looked vaguely familiar but wasn’t saved in my phone. Since I’ve had the same number since I was 16, the area code is from back home. If I’m getting text messages from a Bay Area number, it’s usually not by accident. I did a quick google search of the number to see if it popped up as anything obvious, but nothing. Out of a hunch, I searched for an ex on Facebook since sometimes people post their numbers on their page. We’re not friends anymore, but something in my gut said “hey, check him.”

And that’s when I saw it, he’s in a relationship.

Okay, that in and of itself is nothing tragic. I entered into a relationship 6 months after this guy and I broke up and I’m already in a serious enough place that we’re going to France in May. (!!!!!!) But it’s when the relationship was listed as a beginning date. January 2016.

We didn’t break up until February.

I can’t say that I’m horribly surprised, but it still just… stings. I know that I’m so much better off now. Our relationship ended after I made a joke to cover my insecurities about our financial differences and we got into a fight. The man I’m with now not only understands and doesn’t judge, he helped me build a budget so I could feel more confident.

It’s not that I want the ex back, I just hate that he didn’t respect me enough to keep it in his pants until after he’d broken up with me. Not that I’m all that surprised. While we were dating he admitted to me that he cheated on his ex, and then when she gave him an ultimatum (I presume not knowing about the once-off get off) of “Propose or leave” he moved out in a day. He’s someone who can’t deal with his shit. I was a victim of it. And one day so will the girl he’s dating.

And that’s where things get messy. I feel really bad for his girlfriend.

She looks nice. Per her facebook, she works for a Church. (I didn’t snoop that hard, she just doesn’t have a lot public.) Also based on the “ooooh look at you with a boy” comments on the few shared pictures they have public, she doesn’t date a ton. I know how enthralling he is, how fast he sweeps you up. I want to tell her that when day he smashes her heart because he can’t deal with difficult situations that it’s not her fault.

I want to warn her about him.

I feel protective of her, a complete stranger. It probably has little to do with her. Maybe I’m just wishing someone had protected me. Of all the times another woman has entered into the equation, she’s never stopped to think about me. Maybe it’s all the more reason I shouldn’t care, but that’s just the person I am.

I won’t actually say anything. That’s a bullet train to crazy town, and even if I did, it wouldn’t fix anything. I would just be the cause of the hurt, the start of the pain. If she’d even believe me.

And maybe the point is that I want to hurt him. I want to crush his relationship. I want him to hurt like he hurt me. Okay, maybe not that extreme. But that’s probably a little bit of it. It’s not something I’m proud of, but something I’m honest about.

Like I said, I won’t do anything. But it’s been sitting on my brain. Writing about it helped it make a bit more sense.

And hey, not that you’ll ever see it, but so at least know that I’ve said it… Anna, when it breaks your heart, just know it’s not your fault. I know he’s enthralling and I’m sure he’s planned magical adventures and what type of dogs you’ll have. I’m sure you can’t imagine it ending. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe he finally got some help to deal with whatever issues lay beneath the surface. But, don’t hold your breath. Enjoy what you can, but know that when it ends it’s not you. It’s him. And it will hurt, but you will get through it, and on the other side you’ll find someone real, not some manic pixie dream boy. You’ll see all the things that make him magical are actually red flags. Better things await, because you deserve better.

I deserved better.

 

 

A Perfect 10

I was recently given a really interesting exercise.

Write down every single quality I would have in an ideal mate. Essentially write down a recipe for my perfect man. Personality, values, looks, etc. Just go hog wild. I basically wrote the hero of my own personal trashy romance novel. It was a fun experiment in all the little things I find desirable. (A bit whimsical! Doesn’t snore!)

The next step was to take that rambling list and cut it down to 25 essential traits.

Looks were the first to go, because as much as I like tall, dark, and dimpled, I tend to date average, blondish, and bearded- and I’ve always been physically attracted to them too. I’m one of those people who thinks people tend to get more or less attractive based on their personalities.

The next step was to cut the list down to 10 items. Just 10 essential qualities of the perfect mate… which is no simple task. Some were easy, but there’s always that last few where I struggled to really determine my values and how I prioritized them. Things ended up on the list that almost surprised me, as did some of the things that got cut. I think had I been asked to just write a 10 essential values list outright, the list would have looked slightly different.

My final list:

 

  • Sense of humor. Both because it’s how I communicate and how I cope.
  • Caring and compassionate. Respects himself, myself, and everyone else as humans. Sees the needs of others and tries to help.
  • Self-aware and good at communication. We’ve all got baggage, but we need to be able to figure out how to fit them in the same closet.
  • Loyal and trustworthy. As an extremely loyal person myself, I put a high value on loyalty. But he also has to earn that loyalty.
  • Intelligent without being pretentious or condescending. I value IQ, but I also value EQ. And I think a balance between the two is important
  • Values family and has a good core group of friends. Family is important to me, as are friends. I think having a good support system is key.
  • Sex positive and good at communication in bed. Sexuality is a good part of romantic relationships, and I really enjoy it. And it’s best if my partner and I can communicate openly and without shame or awkwardness.
  • Confident without being arrogant. I can’t spend another relationship believing in my partner more than they believe in themselves.
  • Loves to cuddle/physically affectionate. I’m a really physically affectionate person. I want my partner to want that too.

 

  • Feminist. And really all around pro-human rights. I want my partner to see me as equal, and frankly everyone else. He should value and be respectful of all human lives, because that’s the core of what makes someone a good person to me.  

The goal is to only long-term date men who meet all ten quality requirements. I’m realistic enough to know that finding a man who meets that first list in its entirety is pretty much impossible. Even trying to find someone who’s all 25 would be maddening, but those 10 qualities are so vital to me that I can’t see myself being with someone long-term who didn’t have them.

I’ve already found it helpful in assessing the men I’ve met. Someone who may be fun to hang out with might not meet all the requirements on the list. While they might be good friends or casual partners, I know not to pin my hopes on them long-term.

When I explained this to my mom this morning she asked “but what if they change?” I think she was worried that I was cutting out potential partners because they hadn’t grown into my list yet, but the truth is, I can’t find someone halfway decent and hope they’re able to grow from an 8 to a 10. I’ve spent too many past relationships hoping for things to change or get better, a mourning breakups of relationships that would have been perfect if he’d just do this, that, or the other thing. In fact, a few of the items on the list have evolved from past relationships and either are things that I have had and couldn’t live without again or were awful and I never want to deal with again.

It’s actually really helped when looking at past relationships that I’ve mourned for long periods of time and known that I’ve never dated a perfect 10. I’ve also never had such clear guidance on what I want. So I’m hoping that helps.

Wish me luck!

 

The Last Lone Aster is Gone

I’ve never been much of a poetry person, but I keep a handwritten copy of Robert Frost’s “Reluctance” taped to the wall next to my bed. Maybe it’s because my native New England self can so easily picture the desolate late November scene. It’s a depressing state between when the leaves have fallen but there’s been no magic of snowfall. There’s a certain homesickness in knowing the landscape Frost describes.

But I think my love of the poem has a lot more to do with the last stanza.

Ah, when to the heart of man
   Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
   To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
   Of a love or a season?
I’ve never been good at letting love go. Far too long I grip to a feeling long after it makes sense. Even when my brain knows the past is the past and can’t be changed, my heart still holds on.
I’ve learned to be pragmatic about it. I write lists and I untangle what’s missing a person and what’s just missing a relationship. I find the good and the lessons and I start dating again. But this time, the dating has made it harder.
I’ve been on a few date in recent weeks. One pretty fun one, but he self-admittedly wasn’t looking for a relationship. The other two were pleasant, but bland.
The bland ones are the hardest.
At least a bad date comes with a good story. (Yeah, I knew it wasn’t going to work when he wanted to split the non-alcoholic drink because he feared it would be “too much”.) But bland dates? They’re nice. I’m not rushing to leave or texting “HELP ME” to my BFF from the bathroom. But the pit in my stomach where those butterflies should be remains empty, a sad reminder of the insects that have migrated away.
The missing butterflies only make me miss the person who put them there in the first place.
It’s frustrating as hell.
My brain knows that grief has it’s own timeline. And that my timeline has a general habit of stretching out longer than most. And despite the number of times I post shit like this, it’s not always on my mind. My brain space is taken up working, having brunch with friends, running off to the beach to get in staring contests with seals, and plotting that novel that I swear I’m really going to write before I turn 30.
But sometimes the feeling just crops as I ride the bus back after a bland date or just out of the blue. All I can see are a pair of earnest eyes and takes all my self control to not just send a text that says “I miss you. Come back.”
It makes me feel weak. It makes me feel sad.
Maybe that’s why I’m writing this post. I mean, I just need to vent these feelings and work through them, but there’s some part of me that hopes that he’ll read this post, that maybe he still reads these blogs, and be the one to message me “I miss you” first.
I know it’s unrealistic. I won’t hold my breath. But still… I can’t help wishing for it just a bit.
But tomorrow is a new day. I’ll get distracted by work and preparing for my trip home next week. I’ll spend my night crocheting the next square of the blanket I’m working on and telling myself I should do more writing. Memories will fade to the background like soft rock radio stations at a dentist’s office. And then one day I’ll look up and realize that I haven’t thought of him in weeks. That, like so many others, I’m over him. It will be freeing and I’ll laugh to myself. He’ll be part of the stories that I tell about sleeping next to snoring partners or having our first two dates on the same day.
But until then, I miss you. Come back.

 

Who the Hell is Reinforcing This Crap?

A few weeks ago, I stopped for ice cream on the way home. I’d had a long day and just wanted a little treat. I got a cone of Ube ice cream (purple yam- sounds weird, but so tasty) and set out to walk the way back to where I was staying. I was no more than 5 steps out of the ice cream shop, when a guy passing me said “that looks good” in a voice that clearly implied he didn’t mean what I was eating so much as how I was eating it.

I kept walking without giving him the satisfaction of a response, but the rest of my walk home I felt those cartoon lines of annoyance coming out of my head.

As far as street creeps go, that was really benign. It’s not that I felt truly threatened, just annoyed. But I honestly don’t understand catcalling. I mean, I know what it means. I’ve had everything from being shouted at from car windows to having to remain stone faced while a man gets inches from my face as I walk passed, sucking his teeth as he said “nice” in a voice that still sends shudders down my spine 5 years later.

And every woman I know has stories like this.

But I’ve never understood the “why” of catcalling. What’s in it for guys? I’ve never seen a woman get catcalled and immediately turn around and rip off her shirt in pure lust. Most women get out of those situations as fast as humanly possible or get aggressive back. There’s a reason I carry pepper spray. Why so many women I know carry something on them as a weapon.

So if women clearly do not like it, why do men persist? What is reinforcing this weird drive? When it comes to any behavior, it’s usually all about reinforcement and punishment. Dog sits when owner asks, dog gets cookie, dog sits when owner asks more often. Dog humps human’s leg, dog gets bopped in the nose, dog less likely to hump human’s leg again.

So, if no woman is offering free blow jobs to cat callers or the men of Tinder who offer to “pound them for hours” in lieu of a hello, where is this behavior getting reinforced from? This concept has perplexed me for a very long time.

And then this weekend the sentencing for Brock “The Rapist” Turner came out.  Short version of a long and sad story, this pathetic waste of human space was caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on the Stanford Campus. Despite 3 felony convictions, the judge only sentenced this insufferable fuckwad, who has shown no guilt or remorse for anything other than being under the evil affliction of intoxication, to only 6 months in prison because anything else would be detrimental to his future.

I don’t really have words.

Okay, I do, but they’re mostly swears.

Here’s the thing, this kid’s future is already marred. He’s a convicted sex offender. He has 3 felony convictions. That shit will follow him for the rest of his life. And much as I hope he’s got a cellmate with a Sublime sense of justice, he’s going to be dealing with the consequences of his terrible actions for the rest of his life.

But this conviction sends a loud and clear message “rape isn’t that big a deal if you’re both drunk and he’s a rich athlete.”

It’s not women reinforcing this bullshit, it’s everything else.

 

Leniency on rape offenders. The terms “well what were you wearing?” or “how much did you have to drink?” Victims are often asked to shoulder the blame of their own assault, temptresses to their attackers.

Boys will be boys, right?

 

Wrong.

I couldn’t get the graph to display, but the link above shows the worldwide disparity in rapes per capita. If men are so hard-wired to fuck something, even if it’s not conscious, because they just need to get their rocks off,  then you would assume that those numbers would be relatively the same across the board.

Then why the hell are their 19 times more rapes per capita in the United States than Canada?

19 times. I doubt it has anything to do with large quantities of maple making men less virile.

While I assume there’s a variety of factors at play, attitudes about sexuality and sex education are likely huge factors.

The truth is, America has a very conservative, religious and loud base. Abstinence based education is still rampant, despite the fact that it doesn’t actually work.

sexedmapsupdate1

Conversely, comprehensive sex education has been proven to reduce sexual assault because it not only teaches affirmative consent, but also encourages reporting when it does occur.  

There’s conflicting base ideas that “boys will be boys” but “girls should be virtuous”. Daddies should be protecting their little girls hymens with shotguns, but boys are whistling Robin Thicke’s “I know you want it, but you’re a good girl…” She shouldn’t be a slut, but if he buys her dinner then she owes him a lay. The conversation is too muddied in shame and contractions to do anyone good.

Sometimes writing makes me feel better, pounding my rants away on my keyboard works through my emotions, but I just feel frustrated. I can tune out my cat callers, call out the Tinder pervs, but they’ll shove their fingers in their and call me a bitch and a prude, somehow ungrateful for my own verbal assaults, because they’ve been taught by the laws, by their school, by their society that the needs of their dick is more important that that of my own safety.

We need to stop allowing the reinforcement of the idea that men can’t stop themselves from raping, that their aggressive sexuality is something that should be accepted and appreciated by women. We need to get rid of judges who put the future of the rapist over the suffering of the victim. We need to teach affirmative consent, that yes means yes, from a young age so that there’s never a question of “well she was too drunk to say no, so I took it as a yes.”

We need to stop acting like little girls need protection from their own sexuality, and instead teach them to understand and control it so no one else will.

Old Maid’s Day

I’ve recently been given control of my workplace’s Facebook page. Drunk with power, I went about looking up animal-related holidays in the month of June to post about. I was scrolling through a list of general June holidays when I found “Old Maid Day”.

Yes, despite the fact that it wasn’t work related, I clicked. I had to know. Does someone really like the card game or vinegar pie? Nope, it’s actually a holiday for spinsters.

I’ve read a few different conflicting reports as to where the holiday came from. And while the idea of dances being held to get GIs returning from WWII to meet with single women left behind seems both charming and antiquated, I’m actually more apt to believe the article I found in The Kentucky New Era from 1953. It started as a prank. At a factory all the single women over 30 were given corsages and flowers and told it was Old Maid’s Day. It was a way to celebrate woman who might otherwise be overlooked in celebrations like Mother’s Day or anniversaries, especially those who had remained single and worked to support ailing parents or loved ones.

Yeah, I’m way more in favor of celebrating a holiday about recognizing women who chose single life to serve others than a holiday about Baby Boomer Speed Dating.

So, okay, I know my last post was about how I’m lonely and looking for human connection, but I actually did want to take some time to appreciate single life. (This girl, she’s full of contradictions!)

Truth is, I’ve spent most of my life single. And while a little variety would be nice… so would regular makeouts… I actually am pretty comfortable with it, and plenty of the time I really like it.

Over the summer I went on a mini-vacation up the CA coast. It was an amazing drive to this adorable inn. I took myself on a sunset hike to the very edge of the earth along this steep cliff. The whole walk there was no one but me and the sound of my hiking boots along the trail. At the end I was greeted with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. I still distinctly remember the feeling in my chest when I realized that for as much as long walks and sunsets are romanticized, that orange and purple sky was no less beautiful because I was by myself.


So yeah, sharing moments is really nice and something I’d like to do, but I also refuse to have a less than full life because I’m single.

In celebration of Old Maid’s Day, here are my favorite things about being chronically single:

  1. My sleep is unfettered. I’m a light sleeper with a nice mix of insomnia. Sharing a bed with a new partner usually means weeks to months of adjusting to new apartment sounds, different sleep schedules, and snoring/teeth grinding/sleep punching. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) Being single means I stay up as late as I want, sleep as late as I want, sleep in whatever crime-scene-photo position that is comfortable, and listening to ASMR videos before bed.
  2. Deciding things takes less than half the time. What do I want for dinner? Chinese takeout? Handmade dinner from scratch? Brie, French bread, and salami while I watch Netflix in bed? Once I’ve decided I don’t have to concur with anyone. I just go ahead and do it.
  3. I’ve learned to be handy. Living on the other side of the country from my dad means that I’m without a handyman/mechanic. I mean, I could hire someone, but I’m broke and I’d rather know how to do it. While I wouldn’t rewire my bathroom or change my transmission, I’m comfortable around a power drill (as evidenced by the wine-fueled IKEA build at my friend’s apartment the other night) and can clean the hair trap in my bathroom sink. Sure, I may call my dad to talk me through it, but I like the feeling of doing it with my own two hands.
  4. My time is my own. My last relationship was so hot and heavy so quickly that the only reason I had time to do laundry was because I was dating a snowboard addict in the middle of winter. And don’t get me wrong, I loved spending time with him, but in all the time that I’ve been single I’ve really come to need my alone time. I don’t want to feel guilty because I’ve taken a day off to go to the ocean and collect my thoughts alone. I want to go for a drive and stop on a whim because a stop looks pretty or there’s a roadside stand selling fresh fruit and the only thing I have to consider is if I’ve given the driver behind me enough warning that I’m stopping.
  5. I know myself incredibly well. I’ve always been pretty self-aware. I learned even at a young age to be cool with being inside my own head. The last few years I’ve become even more in-tune with myself. I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet (see above about drives to clear my head) and used to use that inward reflection in attempt to have better outward relationships. It’s not that I think I can’t know myself while in a relationship, but there are different factors at play and maybe less assurance that every choice I make is 100% my own.

So, hell yeah, even though I technically miss the age minimum by a little over a year, I will absolutely be celebrating Old Maid’s Day this Saturday. Being single is nothing to be ashamed of, and those of us who are for whatever reason still deserve our own recognition and celebration. Who knows, maybe I’ll even buy myself a corsage.

But probably not.

Happy Old Maid’s Day!

 

Saturn’s Return

I came to a really intense realization today.

I am lonely.

Not that in that “oh, woe is me, I’m single” sort of lonely. Not in the “oh it’s Friday night and I have no one to share this bottle of pink zinfandel with” way. Those are fleeting feelings. This feels more like a state of existence.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of absolutely amazing people in my life. People who love and care for me, and I the same. I have a wonderful family and awesome friends, and I don’t mean to disparage that in any way, shape, or form. But it’s not the same as it was. I don’t have those same intense connections as I used to.

When I was young, about grade 4 through high school I had really close friends. Those devout, pinky swear friends that you come of age with. In college it was roommates, the women who I spent literally almost all my time with. When I moved to San Francisco I joined MeetUp and became inundated with friends, there always seemed to be people and things happening all around. I lived in a 6 bedroom house with a group of close friends and there always someone there. Dotted here and there were romantic partners, men who, even when only there briefly, filled my life and colored in the edges of my time.

But now?

I’ve been spending more and more time alone. Some of it self-made, deciding that I didn’t need excess amounts of friendships, just good quality ones. And a lot of it has just been the natural evolution of time. We grew apart. People move. They get new partners. Some have kids. Those tightly woven friendships of clasped hands and friendship bracelets become fewer and far between. The only person that I talk to on a consistent daily basis is my mom, but between the stress she’s be under lately and all the rumbling between beneath my skin, we’ve been more prone to snapping at each other lately.

It’s not that I mind being alone or independent. I’ve reached a point in my life where if I don’t drive off and leave the city, or at least go to the ocean, to collect my thoughts I feel a bit muddy.  But I miss those connections, I miss having someone who’s arm I can loop mine through at share all those parts of my life with.

Let me me stress that this is not a disheartened cry for help. This is not a wallow of desperation. I’m not writing this post in blurry tears. I still have a life filled with wonderful, amazing, truly special people who I know care about me and I care about them. 

It’s just different, is all.

I recently heard about the concept of “Saturn’s Return”. It’s an astrological idea that when Saturn returns to the position it was at the time of your birth, it signals a transition in your life. This occurs about every 29 years. 

I am 2 1/2 months shy of my 29th birthday. 

But whether you believe in astrology or not, (I’m not sure I do, even though I find it interesting) it does seem that around 30 seems to be a transition from youth to adult. People around me are transitioning from wide-eyed youthful friendships to meaningful life partnerships. I just don’t seem to have gotten there yet

I don’t think there’s a “cure” persay. I mean, friendships and relationships can’t be forced. They have to be genuine or I want no part of them. But it’s hard to not feel left behind. 

For some, I suppose this is a butterfly moment. I read an excerpt by Chelsea Handler today talking about how people need to not only accept but embrace being single. And hey, if that’s your scene, more power to you. No judgement from me. But that’s not what I want. 

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why these connections- both romantic and non- are so important to me. I’ve come to realize that is not because there’s something lacking in me. I’m not looking to be “completed”. But I want someone to share my life with wholeheartedly. It’s a base part of the human experience. 

Really all I can do is put myself out there more and have faith they will come in their own time. And until then I’ll nourish all those loving relationships already in my life. It’s just a little hard at times, and I wanted to acknowledge that. 

Let’s hope that I’m only just currently in transition. 

Ghosts.

Am I the only one who loses things in breakups?

Or, not so much things as places.

Not only places they might be- a workplace I have to pass, the street where they live- but places that we went together are haunted by ghosts. A bar we went on our first date is suddenly too flooded with the echo of laughter that I can’t cross the first threshold. I refused to ride the L train for about 2 years, for fear I would catch a glimpse of my former self snuggling against a love. (Thankfully that train really doesn’t go anywhere convenient.)

Even when the sting of loss is gone, even when I stop staring at my phone and willing to ring, those ghosts still haunt me for long after it feels acceptable.

A few weeks ago I was dog sitting in the place where my ex and I had our last fight, the one that ended it all. And that was a painful and difficult to endure. It triggered my anxiety in a way that surprised me and almost scared me. But I made it through, and in that time felt like I understood a lot more about how I handled it all. I learned about my issues with control and how I need to focus on letting go.

But now I’m facing a different ghost. I’m dog sitting in the place where I first felt the blossom of love.

We’d been dating a few weeks, and he came to visit me after work. I’d had an extremely emotionally taxing weekend, and I just needed to feel cared for. And there he was, with burritos and a cookbook that reminded him of our first date. We didn’t have sex that night, but laid there on the pullout sofa I was staying on and just gazed into each other’s eyes. (Okay, that sounds really lame when I type it out. But I promise it was intensely bonding.) It was in the moment that I felt the last of my walls come crumbling down and my heart ripping open.

And now here I am, sitting on that same sofa bed. Aware that the ghosts are laying on my feet.

Oddly, I’m doing okay. I mean, I know that they’re there and I can’t help but thinking about that night, but I’m not sobbing (well, only when I watched that episode of Call the Midwife) and I’m not tempting to call him and try and win him back with my words.

I’m slowly learning to live with the ghosts instead of fighting them. They usually win.

They’re part of my past, my history. They’ve earned a right to haunt these halls for a while in exchange for the lessons they’ve taught me. And I’ve also learned that one day they will get bored and slip away into the ether. One day I looked up and realized I hadn’t thought of N in a long time. I’m looking forward to the day that happens with my ex. I just need to stop fighting his ghost so much.

Or at least not allowing in the ghost of “what could have been” in, which is the one that always seems to persist the longest and the loudest.

Happy Haunting.