Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Bachelorette

I’ve been watching The Bachelorette for the last couple seasons and it’s occurred to me, more than once, how excellent and hilarious it would be to cast forty and fifty-somethings instead of the fresh young twenty-somethings the show favors.  Less bikini time, probably, but so much more interesting for all that mileage on the odometer.

And, when the ad comes on, “If you want to be the next Bachelorette…”, I’ve always thought, oh, I should call.  And then I’d remember I was forty-something.  And then I’d remember I was married.

I’m still forty-something (forty-three, I’m forty-three, you can’t shame me, ol’ forty-three) but I’m not married anymore (well, okay, technically I am, but logistically I’m single).  And so I’m conducting my own untelevised version of  The Middle-Aged Bachelorette.

I met Ben in 1998, long before online dating was ubiquitous.  From my smug married perspective, it always seemed like such a weird idea.  When Ben and I broke up, one of my first questions for my girlfriend/sisters was “Please don’t tell me I have to online date.”

Cut to…I’m now not on one, not on two, but on three dating sites.  One of them, Tinder, is especially ridiculous/delightful.  It’s a phone app, and it’s mostly pictures.  You swipe right if you like them, left if you don’t.  If you both like each other, then you’re free to communicate.  I swipe at odd times – school parking lots, walking my dog, at work.  I’m like the proverbial kid in the candy store (“I’ll take one of those, two of these…”).

I’m interviewing applicants for the boyfriend position.  Who knows how long that job will last given my year of upheaval, but I’m sure it’ll be highly rewarding while it does.  I’m perfecting my selection process, getting efficient, as I always do:

Rule #1:  Text back and forth enough that you’re confident you have sufficient commonalities but not so long that you feel like you really know each other before you’ve met face-to-face (high expectations, vast disappointment).

Rule #2: Talk on the phone before the first date.  You then know if you can feasibly talk for an hour once in the same room.  You can tell a lot from a person’s voice.

Rule #3: Keep the first date to an hour in duration.  Warn them ahead of time you have somewhere else to be.  If it’s bad, you’re out of there without a lot of awkwardness or wasted time.  Even if it’s good, you avoid propelling the relationship too far, too fast.

Rule #4: No kissing on the first date.  I’ve broken this rule almost every time.  I like to kiss, I can’t help myself.  My friend, Jane, developed “The Kissing Test” when she was single, the basic premise being that if there’s any attraction at all, kiss them.  Kissing is very informative.  But if you can at all help your slutty self, no kissing until date #2.

Rule #5: Do not horizontal with anyone you haven’t spent a lot of time with.  It just causes heartache (at least for me, emotional girl that I am).  Your bodies get ahead of your brains and hearts.  You think you know each other and then you turn the lights on and it’s like, “Oh, who are you again?”

Rule #6: Throw all the rules out the window if you so choose.  Because, really, how long is this phase going to last?

Something that always baffled me about The Bachelorette was how she could kiss so many different men, carry on all these relationships at the same time.  Now, in my own bachelorette phase, I get it.  This week I have five dinner dates five nights in a row with five different men and I’m looking forward to each and every one.  Nuts but true.

Okay, yes, I hear you out there.  She’s escaping the hard realities of divorce, distracting herself with men.  You are absolutely right.  And at least for right now, it’s fun.  A brand of fun I barely remember.

And once Mr. Right rounds the corner, or at least someone I want to dive deep with, I’ll let this nonsense go.  And free up a whole lot more time for reading.  Until then, would you please accept this rose?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

This Old Heart

Life is full these days.  I’m working four different fledgling careers (if you count this one, which hasn’t been getting much sunlight lately), disentangling my financial/legal/emotional life from Ben’s, learning the ropes of single motherhood and, oh my lord, starting to date.  First kiss after a fifteen-year relationship?  I could write a book.

But mostly what I’ve been doing is thinking about the nature of love.  Nothing like a break-up to make you look at yourself, how you give love, how you accept it, what’s working and more pointedly, what’s not.

And here’s what I’m finding when I look back on my forty-three years of offering and receiving love: my default, most basic, deepest truth is that I feel unlovable.  Terrible but true.  Hard to take in love from that place.  Easy to extend too far in the other direction, giving everything to try to achieve what seems impossible.  Will you love me if?

And, yes, I know this belief is false.  In my brain, my fine, functional brain, I know I’m as lovable as anyone.  I’m a good person, there’s no doubt.  In my best moments, I can be selfless, I can certainly be fun, I’m bright, I’m kind, I’m very much myself.  There’s a lot to love.  I know that.

But my heart, my heart needs convincing.  And I have no idea how to do that.  Somebody else’s love?  That’s probably not going to do the trick.  Not until I’ve somehow healed this battle-scarred heart – it’s not broken, I won’t say that, because I have great hope that I can fix it.

And so every time lately I find myself back on my couch, staring out the window, certain that my heart will never fill, never be filled, at least not completely, I grab my phone and send a text – a group text to my two oldest friends, my sisters, in spirit if not in blood.

I write: “I’ll find love, right?  I am lovable, right?’

And they, however entrenched they are in their own full and complicated lives, however many times they’ve answered these very same questions, will say, “Yes.  You will.  You are.  You don’t have to believe it right now, we’ll believe it for you.”

So I’m going to let them carry that one.  I’m going to keep stretching this old heart, I’m going to do my self-love calisthenics.  Open and open and open.  In the words of E.M. Forster: “Courage, Miss Honeychurch, courage and faith.”