Sunday, June 29, 2008

You're Never Alone, Really, Sort Of

I really do have the sweetest family.

This morning as I was purchasing all-important underwear with monkeys on it for my daughter, I got a call from one of my cousins, who recently had fairly serious surgery, as did her mother, my aunt. We'd been talking about getting together when they felt better, and she was calling to tell me that my cousins who formerly lived in WV were in town. So I called my sister in law and we threw together a gathering at my brother's place out in the country. Unfortunately I didn't have my kids along but in some ways that made it easier to really visit.

It's almost 11 p.m. and my sister in law called to make sure I made it home (eek, I forgot to call!). As independent as I am, I forget that something could actually happen to me and that I could find myself in trouble, sick, or hurt, or worse, and that not having a partner means that it could be a while before someone found out. My boss will sometimes call in the morning if I'm running a bit behind schedule, to make sure I'm ok. They know I'm typically in the office no later than a few minutes after 8, and if they call at 8:15 and I don't pick up, they worry. I've decided it's not that silly. It's his way of extending the way he takes care of damn near everybody (he's the oldest of 8 kids and the only son) to me and my kids. His wife does the same. I feel very lucky.

I've begun lately to entertain the question of whether I really want a relationship or if I have room for it. I would definitely, at this point, have to make room for it, which means that I'm far pickier than I used to be. That comes at an age when most men and women decide they need to be less picky. But I think that, as much as I love my freedom, there are times when being "it" feels a little old. It's all on me, all the time, and if something happens to me, oh well.

I'm not sure what exactly I should do about this beyond just acknowledge it for now. I've started down the road of online dating, with results I've described here and there on the blog as just this side of tragic. At best, I was introduced to a few nice men who realized they weren't over their last girlfriends/wives/whatever. At worst, either I was being set up to be "corrected" or setting myself up to take on burdens I just don't want to take on at this point in my life. Maybe a few folks have had better results, but, evidently it's no way for me to meet an environmental lawyer who plays the banjo and whose kids, if he has them, are already in college.

Like I said, picky. The Nonexistent Mr. Right has to be smart, treat me with the respect that I deserve because I am also smart, probably plays an instrument, is somewhat driven and enjoys working at SOMETHING at least as much as I do, and hopefully he's passionate about it. And, he doesn't have attached to him some complex co-parenting situation into which I refuse to introduce my own kids (they've been there, are there, done that). The list is actually longer than that, but why even think about it? I'm not, really, just toying.

In the end, I suspect the reason it's even on my mind is that my family and maybe even my kids feel sorry for me that I haven't mated up already. But the longer I stay single, the more I have to do on my own, and chances are I'll still end up alone outside of a sudden illness or freak death that precedes that of any eventual partner. So at least I know I can do it. I just feel a bit guilty for my family worrying about it, even though they are universally pleased for me to be out from under the vapors of a toxic marriage.

One things for sure, I do love the freedom to enjoy, explore, expound on, and expose others to this great music that I've completely fallen in love with. One of my favorite songs from Donna Hughes release, "Gaining Wisdom", is this tune, "Find Me Out On A Mountaintop", because it's so often how I feel. Here it's performed by the fabulous Blue Highway, who will make their way to The Kent Stage on July 11 along with the hottest buzz in bluegrass, the Dixie Bee Liners. Whether I can convince my friends to come along or I go alone, I'll have that night to celebrate the music and savor a little real joy.

Find Me Out on the Mountaintop


At June 30, 2008 8:52 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Well, here's the problem as I see it. When we're young, we just want to date. We want to have fun, have someone to hang out with, have sex, etc. It's all new to us. It's like being able to finally be a grownup after years of waiting. So we'll pretty much date anyone who will have us and who we find remotely attractive.

After a few years of doing that, some breakups, maybe even a failed marriage or two, we decide that just dating anyone who wants to date us may not be the right strategy. Most everyone I know is single or divorced. Maybe single people tend to just hang out together but it does amaze me that so many of my friends and acquaintances who are smart, funny, have decent jobs, and are generally good-hearted, are alone. I used to think it was because there just weren't a lot of great people out there but I think that's crap.

I now think it's kind of as you say. The longer you're alone, the more set you get in your own ways. The more you think, "I know how to raise my kids, thank you, and I don't need anyone to tell me differently." But I think that's unrealistic. Someone who is going to be a life partner is going to have a say in how you do things, and it may not always be what you've done for the past ten years but too bad. Relationships are about compromise.

I'm not picking on just you Mando. My point is that with each criteria you list, you funnel the pool of people that much more. Since you live here, ideally you'd have to meet a man who live here. Let's say there's 100,000 of them within close enough proximity of you to be realistic. Half are married so that takes you down to 50,000 already. Of that amount, perhaps 2/3 is either too old or too young. Now we're down to 16,500. Of those, how many play an instrument? Maybe 20%, so we're down to 3,300.

You see where I'm going. With just three basic criteria, we've narrowed our pool of 100,000 men down to 3,300. Add in things like having a job, being responsible, being reasonably in shape, not having a ton of baggage, etc., and you find that the pool of men who meet your criteria is down to about 3.

Okay, I exaggerate but let me use myself since I'm apparently going to find myself back in the ranks of the single. I like thin women. It's not a choice I made when I was 30. For as long as I can remember, going back to elementary school, I've always found taller, thinner women to be attractive to me. Some guys like bigger, curvier women. Not me. I'd rather date Keira Knightly than Tyra Banks.

Point is that 60% of women in the U.S. are overweight. So, right off the top, 60% of the population is just not physically attractive to me. I can't help feeling that way. It just is who I am. Of the remaining 40%, half will be married on average and about 2/3 will be too old or too young. So again, without even adding anything in about personality, intelligence, employment, or kids, I'm already down to a very small percentage of the population that's even possible for me to date.

It's quite daunting. I think I'm bank on virtual partners or quality robots.

At June 30, 2008 6:08 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Doc, I don't feel picked on. I have the combined vices of being picky AND being an executive recruiter. I spend most of my day lining people up against qualifications, and helping to decide whether they "fit" what someone is looking for. For better or worse I've gotten equally good at doing that in my personal life, too. I don’t mean to insinuate that I treat dating exactly like recruiting, but at some point, I realized I wasn’t being as thorough with the men I was inviting into my life as I am in scrubbing down candidates I never have to live with. Seems out of whack, given that the more promising guys might end up spending some time around my children. Most people never think of half the things that could come up, and even fewer who do will ask about them directly for fear of ruining a “good” thing. Not my style. It does seem, however, that my recent dating experiences have made up for all of the karmic mistakes others are making. And to be sure, I'm rejected as often as I do the rejecting, or more often.

The thing is not so much that I’m set in all my ways but that, at this stage in my life, I have a good idea of what would work, I have a good sense of what about me irritates others (believe it or not), and I know what I can personally tolerate (we all have our horror stories!). I consider it a given that a lot of the best guys in my range also might be a bit set in their ways. Still I believe it is possible for two people to come together with all their “stuff” (or despite it) and that out of a connection grows a real human love, warts and all. The trick is that I have a fair number of conditions surrounding me; I am tied to this area and to an arrangement regarding my kids, who are *the* priority, with a sometimes difficult ex. It's an odd package to offer and requires someone who can see past it to the potential. The flip side is that as long as I go without a partner, the longer I fend for myself, the less I need to "depend" on someone else, so either I attract the perpetually lazy or repel the perpetually heroic. Tricky, tricky, tricky. The most attractive guys to me are smart, adventurous, compassionate, wise, have a teensy edge but a great sense of humor, and just want to hang out with me for me. Sadly, most of them are gay, married, or otherwise not interested.

The only point you make that I’d disagree with is your comment about relationships. Absolutely they require work, some work, and compromise, or as I prefer to see it, a good exchange of ideas and experience. ;-) No question, the man who captures my attention and my heart long term will have done so because he has truly valuable observations to share about my kids, my career, my picking technique--whatever! A good relationship always teaches us something about ourselves. Our friends know us, love us, and accept us for who we are, which is good but also keeps us in the Comfort Zone. An intimate relationship can help us see, experience, or confront parts of ourselves that we’ve been ignoring. I miss that about being tangled up with somebody, but all things considered I have to be pretty realistic. Otherwise my life and all I can contribute will pass me by while I'm waiting for a frog to kiss. Pthew! Maybe the robot idea isn't so bad -- I probably need a maid way more than a man, anyway!

At July 01, 2008 8:48 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Well, I think this mentality is a total change, and I'm not sure it's for the better. My parents, and most of my friends parents, are still married and now retired. I don't think they really had "qualifications" for their mates, other than to be nice and to be someone they wanted to spend time with. But people in my parents day had a different idea about relationships. They didn't look at is as finding someone who fits your life. They looked at it as meeting a person you thought would be decent, knowing that they weren't going to be perfect and that there would be hard times, but sticking with it and persevering and adapting. Of course, many of the people my parents age are only one generation removed from the Depression and lived through World War II. These people expected hardship in their lives and they saw the value of seeing it through.

Today people do not have this mentality. Granted, women, in particular, have more opportunities than my mom did and so they don't have to "settle." More women are also in the workforce meaning that they are meeting men all the time, and flirting, and having opportunities for relationships they never had before. Yet more people are alone because I think that they want someone to fit into their life like a piece to a jigsaw puzzle instead of realizing that the edges of the puzzle piece might need to be re-shaped.

When I talk about this with people, they often insist that the way we do it now is better. If that's true, then why are so many people alone? My mom and dad did not always have an easy marriage but their are still together now, getting alone better than ever, and they have the comfort of each other in their old age. So many people now who fiercely defend their standards will not, I fear, be as lucky.

At July 01, 2008 6:04 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Eh, it's a slippery slope, really. I think most marriages, even iffy ones, still start out the way you describe. Mine did, despite the alarms going off in the back of my head and the comments my friends and family made. But I thought I could make it work. And for a while, it did. But now my poor kids go back and forth between homes every other week like little ping pong balls. I do regret that, but there was just no way I could spend the rest of my life with someone who didn't respect me, and not only that, openly showed disdain for my independence. So to be sure, I may have "qualifications" but they came at something of a sacrifice.

I would not agree that the way we do things now is better. I cannot keep up with the lightening speed expectations of, for example, online dating. It's madness! So many of the guys were "dating me without my permission" after one phone call. Crazy. I know one or two couples for whom it worked, but I would much rather meet someone the old fashioned way, even if it's while settin' on the porch of the old folks home. Life is too short not to live it authentically. I know, 'cause I was living it the other way.

At July 01, 2008 10:07 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

Do they make that monkey underwear in my size?

What I want is someone who still likes me even if my underwear has monkeys on it.

At July 02, 2008 7:08 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

LOL! Me, too! I bet Target does have 'em for grownups. My daughter did find sleep shorts for me with turtles on them.

At July 02, 2008 8:14 AM, Blogger DrDon said...

Turtle shorts would be great. I miss my turtle, well actually my wife's turtle. It makes me sad and I don't get sad a lot.

I'd like shorts with sharks on them to sleep in. That would be cool.

At July 02, 2008 2:58 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

Turtle underwear might be the funniest of all, for men anyway. Oh never mind...

MM, I have given you the Arte y pico award! LINK

At July 02, 2008 10:00 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey, you know what's weird, the other night I was out on the bike path faking exercise and there was a decent-sized turtle on the path! I had to help little dude out of harm's way. Turtles are so righteous! But, I agree, turtle underwear on a man is...well...functional!

Thanks for the Arte nod, Blueberry! :-)


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