Friday, January 16, 2015

On Dating a Single Parent

Alright, so it's been about a month since I gave the single dad thing a go. I see him every once and a while. Let's five times. That 28 hour date, a Wednesday night, that 70 hour date, and this past Tuesday and Thursday. Which is strange considering that the Turk, who lasted about two months, but really only like 20 days in person, seemed so much more of something; so intense. (It's only since just this I've realized how incredibly different interactions between two people can be over the same amount of time. It's mind-boggling. But anyway...)

So we're four weeks into this and I'm not quite sure what to think, but there are definitely disjointed thoughts running through my mind. I'm already running into feeling like I'm competing with a kid. To which someone responded to my concern, "Well it's not a competition." Well no fucking shit because 1. I would never win and 2. I'm not trying to compete, it just feels that way. It feels like some sort of weird, unwanted rivalry, as I am vying for the same affections - well aware best I'll ever do is silver. This issue was brought up one night when he was suppose to come over and then the kid decided he wanted to go back to dad's from mom's and I got a, "Sorry, I can never say 'no' to him."

Well good god what am I suppose to do with that? On the one hand, I deeply admire him for being such a good and doting father, having missed out on that myself. On the other hand, as a single girl interested in a guy, I find it incredibly frustrating that I am not doted upon; that I'll always come second. And that's just being honest.

So lets continue with this sort of free-flowing what's going in my head and jot it down with the next hypothetical scenario that popped into my mind: What if I'm sick or hurt and I need to go to the hospital but he - in this completely theoretical scenario where he's something significant to me - can't take me because he's got his kid? I, in theory, then am dating a guy that can't take care of me because he's too busy taking care of his number one. 

I want to be able to need as much as I am needed. Isn't that the definition of a partnership? But then it occurs to me that if you are dating a single parent, you are always going to be needed more than your needs are fulfilled. You are always going to have to bend more than they bend; work around two needs instead of just one. It appears to be an incredibly uneven see-saw: Two people on one end hanging you high and dry on the other. Boris and Natasha versus Rocky sans Bullwinkle.

Even still, I'm trying to give this time to matriculate into the world of single parent dating. This all is still incredibly casual - although difficult to keep it feeling particularly casual based on the situation - but I have these thoughts and such, e.g.: How the fuck would this ever work?  And we haven't even gotten to the part where he's gone back to work yet and his work hours are all jacked up so then it's just work and kid ... and no girl - which could be the end in and of itself. A question I posed just last night: Just what happens then? Are we done when you being to work again?

"I don't know my schedule yet." Which my brain takes and translates - appropriately - to: Calm the fuck down, self - remember to be in the moment. And thus, it reminds me that one of the appeals of dating a single parent was that they don't have enough time to spend with me in order to get attached (because I'm fucking moving, damnit). Otherwise, if this went deep into dating territory as is, it would feel like I'm making all the sacrifices to meet the needs in his life. And what about me? Just because I don't have a child, doesn't mean I should have to sleep on a couch in the basement my needs are less important.

And so I remind myself it's casual - as casual as it can be working around the schedule of a seven year old. So right now I figure we still enjoy each other's company (despite seeing one another rarely.) And it's still winter and beds are still cold. And I, sort of unexpectedly, like to spend time with him - so there's that. And yet, with my silver medal, I can't fully identify with the satiated feeling of being a part time parent, and thus, also a part time lover. Instead, I am simply a part time lover; a woman of convenience - my most loathed place to be. And, to make matters worse, a position he doesn't seem to understand.

"What do you mean 'convenience," he asked as I broached the topic. And honestly, I don't even know where to begin explaining. And even if I tried, it would only ever make sense if I had a kid too (or he didn't.) And here lies the crux of the problem: Our lives force us to use separate playbooks; play by different rules. Single parent/childless single dating: It's hard. It would require understanding from both parties who can't possibly fully understand the other person's position. It's sacrificial and admirable and complicated and not easy and potentially totally worth it - and potentially totally not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Key

When I was 24, I had everything. A live-in boyfriend. A house. Furniture to fill it. Photos and art to line the walls. A car. An education. And a job. On paper, it looked perfect. On the inside, everything was falling apart. 

I was months away from 26 when I ended it. When our lease was up 6 months later, we packed up and left a 7 foot wide, 5 foot tall pile of perfectly good stuff behind the house for trash collectors (or garbage hunters - that George Foreman grill still worked). 

I kept the furniture. I kept some stuff. I moved in with a stranger. A year later, we both looked for new digs and to move again - to the location and price I wanted - I had to get rid of more stuff. I downsized again. I felt freer. The weight of each piece of furniture that used to define the life I thought I was ready for, fell off as the shackles of stuff came undone. 

At 30, I moved again. Another downsize. I was prepping for a move I had wanted for years, to a place I was still uncertain where exactly it was. I gave up more things; felt even freer still. 

At 31 I look around and I realize that my contemporaries are filling their homes with stuff and children and things. And I took a seat, casting away all the stuff that tied me to a place and limited me to where I might live or where I could go. If I wanted, my life could fit in my car. I love that; I am tethered to nothing; free and open and able to everything. 

Growing up we were told how life would be as an adult. That we would get an education, then a job, then a spouse, then kids. To work each day to buy a home to fill with furniture to make comfort for a family. At 24, I began to reject what I had sought so hard to achieve because I had grown up thinking that it was the goal, the purpose, the definition of success and therefore the key to happiness. But what I began to realize was that all of those ties to things and what I was expected to have and be, only imprisoned my desire to a life more simple; more shared; more experienced in everything. To live out all of the mistakes we are suppose to make. To have the awful moments to share with friends and family and understand that - even at 31 - we're all still trying to figure it out. That for some people, the life we are raised to believe is right, isn't what is right for us - at least not on the timeline we were brought up to believe. And we have to fail in order to find out what our own definition of success is; what makes us happy. 

Lately I've helplessly watched as loved ones struggle to make something of what they are told is success; what defines their value as a human being. And I think far too often we as humans fail to recognize that losing absolutely everything you thought you wanted and beginning all over again is perhaps the most liberating, terrifying and successful thing(s) we can do. Often we must fail entirely first in order to succeed (even just a little) in the end. And it is then we are truly able to appreciate the tiny successes as much as huge accomplishments. Happiness isn't defined by what we have or the things we have tethered to ourselves; happiness is the joy you feel in small victories and in knowing that everything you have done has brought you to where you are meant to be - and that the future, while scary, remains hopeful. To learn to trust that everything happens in time. That buying stuff and things does not dull a nagging impatience or feelings of ineptitude. 

At months away from 26, I finally learned that you cannot buy happiness. At 30, I learned the freedom from the things you buy, might actually take you one step closer to finding your place. Too often, it seems, humans are enslaved to objects. I find now, a certain euphoria that lies within exactly what we don't know and the ability to drive away whenever - with nothing - in order to know it. At 31, I have realized failing isn't a bad thing; fail isn't a four letter word. That sometimes giving up everything you have is the key to getting everything you ever wanted. So far, I find this to be true. And the hope for more lies in front me.

Monday, January 5, 2015

70 Hour Date

So that Steeler playoff weekend third date thing happened. It actually happened. And it went like this:

this was just like - the fucking coolest
On Friday he met me at work at 2:30p. We drove up to Pittsburgh and checked in. We went to dinner, then drinks. We got drunk; I got drunker. We went back to the hotel. The next day we went to lunch at my favorite place to eat. We checked into our next hotel (because he accidentally booked a different one drunk on Thursday night). We got ready - rather I got ready while he went and got me velcro from Micheals (this tooks some coaxing; good sport). We taxied to Station Square for bar before the game, then ferried across the river to the game. He surprised me with the best fucking seats (see pic). And he gifted the tickets he originally bought to a friend of mine. (How nice of him.) We split a sandwich at the game and I had three ciders to his 60 beers (fine, fine divided by 10). Unfortunately the Steelers lost and we were both a little salty, citing 'KUMQUAT!' to elicit each others' silence. And it worked. (I think we used a total of two 'kumquat' silencers each this weekend, which is pretty good considering two near strangers spending so much time together. I highly suggest this method of disagreement intervention.) We ferried back over and headed to a bar for drinks (which he didn't need any more of, so I got him water and he complied) and food. (Might I suggest Bar Louie's chicken nachos? Amazing.) His friend dropped by to hang out with him; she loved me so much she gave me her number and said we need to hang out. (Sure.) Around 2am, we taxied back to our hotel and he passed out while I watched and episode of Friends for about four seconds before I fell asleep.

The next morning we woke up and checked out by 1pm - using every last minute till check out. A slow, recovering saunter. We headed out and down to Primanti's for sandwiches (yum!) on the way to Gabes (because I wanted pants I got the wrong size of at Christmas). Around 4pm, we finally began to make our way back to DC. (Five minutes in, I rear-end a car; but really it was more of a bump and not entirely my fault.) Mid-way through the four hour drive, I couldn't take the near-zero visibility of darkness and rain combined with wicked winds anymore; they made me so nervous driving up and down the mountains of West Virginia and Maryland. We quickly discussed and he said he was fine getting a hotel at the midway point for the night. (This was my favorite part - although I'm not entirely sure why.) So on a quick whim, he booked the hotel and we were hanging out in Cumberland for the evening - went to the only restaurant in town for dinner (and drinks) then back to our third hotel in three days. We watched some movies; did some things; went to sleep. Woke up in the morning, I emailed work I would be late, packed up and drove two more hours back. And when I left him at his car - even after all that time together, I wished I didn't have to - a reaction by which I found myself incredibly surprised. And a little confused. Not confused were some things I learned from this weekend:

Number One: You can go all in to something you are well aware could end in disaster, and end up pleasantly surprised.

Number Two: Just because a guy talks incessantly on a first date, doesn't mean he will continue to do so for the rest of time. (Mentioning it to him probably helps.)

Number Three: Lists of non/desirable traits don't really mean too much. Tribal tattoos, a kid, military, brown eyes, under six feet, voted for Dubya twice (once I can forgive; that second time is atrocious), an affliction t-shirt, online. And yet, I found a fondness in his company. He was nothing I would imagine from the canvas of description that I had painted in my mind. 

Number Four: Being completely physically simpatico is fantastic and forgives affliction t-shirts. 

Number Five: Don't get too drunk with someone you don't really know. But if you do get drunk, make sure the following night when they get too drunk, that you're there to shuffle everyone home that time and try not to judge too harshly in the morning - even if you wanted to smash all of their toes that night with a 90 pound sledgehammer. Fair's fair and tit for tat.

Number Six: Single dads - not too shabbs, but appear to smoosh all partying into off weekends.

Number Seven: Don't eat wings if you're going to share a bed with someone.

Number Eight: Women still don't understand men. Even if everything seems so obvious, once you throw in some interest on the side of the ladies, ladies will cock their head to a side and forget about how they understood where they were, what they were doing, and all she knew a week ago and substitute it with five hundred "what ifs" and confused little shoulder shrugs, waiting for the next confident moment where she can be like: "Oh, psh yea, he's totally still interested." 

Number Nine: (On a related note to Number Eight) After a 70 hour third date, when friends ask, "So what do you think/where's it gonna go" the answer will still probably be, 'I don't know.'

Number Ten: When someone asks you to do something cool, even though it has great potential to end it completely fucking irritated disaster, you fucking do something cool. (And offer to drive because 1. It's polite, 2. If he pays for literally everything else, you should at least pay for gas and, 3. You might need a getaway.) Because it could all turn out just fine - and with an NFL playoff stub and 10 lessons to boot.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Twenty Fifteen

At the end of 2013, I had decided – thanks in part to a horrifying familial experience of the 2012/13 NYE – that I was going to sit at home alone with some Redbox movie and a bag of popcorn to ring in the new year. When I told some friends, they said I couldn’t: "You can't spend NYE alone at home." I ended up going out in Virgina with a group of now-acquaintance friends. I had an alright time, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I would have rather been on my couch, a desire which grew exponentially when another friend showed up to that bar. That one that thought he’d bring his brother to me for me to bang since I made one with him drunk the summer before and his brother was about to go into basic training. All that happened was that I DD’ed for them, and thus got stuck sharing a blow up mattress with said brother, while his snoring roared in my right ear and I begrudgingly didn't sleep.

The following day I had to wait a very long time to get someone to drive me back home since their house was nowhere near the metro. All of that was annoying, but at least they were alive and safe. I did my good deed. I grumbled into 2014.

This year my good deed on NYE accomplished both what I wanted and perhaps what someone else needed. This year I was going exactly what I wanted to do. I was spending NYE at home. And to include a good deed, I invited any “orphans” to join me. No one showed up, so good for them and good for me. I finally got to do what I wanted and not what is “supposed to be.”  I rang in the New Year in yoga pants, on my couch, having downed almost an entire pizza by myself, while purchasing bras on Amazon at midnight to celebrate the ball drop I didn’t even have on the TV. Then a housemate and I popped a bubbly and played Wii for hours. This morning we had a New Years day waffle and mimosa pajama brunch in the comfort of our own home. It was just what I had wanted.

Upon a short retrospection of 2014, it seems to be a very appropriate end to this year. It hasn’t been a particularly adventurous year. I haven’t left the country; I’ve barely left DC, which is quite a change from a girl that spent the past five years barely home: First traveling all over the country, then the world. This year I went to Seattle and Boston and Nashville and that’s about it. So strange to think that the year before, that would be something that spanned a month. So strange to think I’m planning. (I am not a planner.)  And the plan has been just to wait. Patience is something I have become keenly aware of this year; resting at the feet of some sort of fated destiny. I have come to accept and covet that not every year has to be marked with tremendous occasions to be momentous or important; the little things add up, nurturing a patient mind.

No one thinks I’m moving. Not that their opinions matter and also not that I can blame them, as I’ve been saying I’m going for years, but I know I am on my way somewhere. However - and particularly this year - the universe has intervened; be it with money or the prospect of love or my cousin happening to have a spot in her house or all of the things that seemed to have divinely intervened. But all this stagnation – marked with moments of tremendous personal growth and recognition of past lessons learned and put to use – is leading to something. Something I don’t know. And something I won’t know I wanted until I have it.

I feel now there are very good things that lie ahead of me despite (or perhaps because of) those moments trapped in a provincial monotony. But bored, I have never been. Itching to go, yes, but I’m planning; waiting; filling my time with people and stories and practice and life. Because the things that have happened this year have been with such obvious purpose, but where they are leading to, I have yet to see. What a thrilling way that is to saunter into twenty-fifteen.