Dating and Analysis Paralysis

November 29, 2008

Lately, I have been reminded of a friend of mine named Sarah.  I met her in 2000.  We were both hired at the same time by the same person, who, as it turns out, was getting ready to leave her job.  We were barely introduced around before she announced her departure.  We were too new and dumbfounded to ask many questions.  We spent the next year-and-a-half doing the best we could to salvage the project.

I was in unfamiliar territory with a new job, new responsibilities, and a lot of new experiences.  I responded by being anxious and trying to figure out all of the details in advance, but stress is never fun.  Then, I learned something important from Sarah.  I learned to let go.  I learned to think less.  I learned to have faith that everything would work out.  We travelled around the country together for work and sure enough, everything had a way of working out. 

That is where I am at in this new relationship with Harley.  My tendency is to be anxious and to try to figure out everything ahead of time.  But, I can’t.  That’s not how relationships work.  I want to know what will happen next, but I don’t.  And it drives me nuts!

I had forgotten how much I rely on routine to make my life manageable.  I keep my life pretty simple…and predictable.  The downside of that is that my life has been pretty basic and not very social.  My weekly routine revolves around parenting, working, sleeping, cleaning, and running errands.  When I am solidly in a routine, I exercise regularly.  And I write. 

Lately, I have been spending a lot of my free time with Harley.  The weather has been colder and rainer over the last month.  Between that and the shorter days, my exercise routine has completely fallen to the wayside.  Same thing with the writing.  But the thing is, I need to write now more than ever.  I need to make sense of all of the thoughts and emotions that come up.  And I have to remind myself to relax.

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The Neediness Monster

November 17, 2008

In my recent bout with PMS et al., my inner needy monster came out to play.  I’ve noticed that once I get into the honeymoon period with a guy, I start to flip out (at least inside my head).  Everything is great…so when is everything going to blow up and go to hell in a hand basket? 

When is Mr. Nice going to turn into Mr. Jerk?  When is Mr. Generous going to turn into Mr. Selfish? 

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit.  I think there is a 21 day rule with dating, too.  At least in my experience, people’s true colors start to emerge somewhere between day 14 and day 21…or the moment you start falling for them…or whichever comes sooner.  I’ve dated guys where the change seems to happen overnight.  I’ve also dated guys where the change is very, very gradual.  He starts out very charming, full of interesting stories, cooking amazing dinners…then one day you notice he stopped trying…but you’re not sure when.  It’s x months later and now that your lives are fully intertwined, he’s a jerk.

Well, that’s my experience.  So, like clockwork, with Harley, my unconscious brain was going tick, tock (no, that’s not my maternal clock, thank you very much).  When is he going to say something rude?  When is his other personality going to take over?  When is the act going to end?  Is it going to happen slowly or quickly? 

My body remembers every time I have felt this way.  Every time, I have ended up hurt, disappointed, and lonely.  For every up, there is a down.  For every honeymoon, there is a…rude slap of reality?  Well, sheesh, to make a long story a lot shorter, I’ve been waiting for Harley to turn into the Antichrist.  And, uh, he hasn’t, but I did.  All of my anxiety and fear and worry got the best of me.  I turned into a pathetic, needy mess…and Harley rode it out like a champ.

Thankfully, the neediness monster went back to sleep.


The Worst PMS Ever

November 13, 2008

Last weekend, I had the worst case of PMS…and then some.  Years ago, murderous thoughts were one of my premenstrual symptoms.  Fortunately, Prozac does wonders for PMS (and apparently hot flashes too!).  The point I’m trying to make is that I haven’t been that hormonally crazy in years.

Of course, I was doing all the wrong things…I haven’t exercised (well, except for sex) in the last three weeks, I’ve been consuming more caffeine and alcohol than usual, and I’ve been getting less sleep and down time than usual.  Talk about a recipe for disaster.

Harley and I haven’t had any “arguments,” per se, but we came pretty close on Monday.  I managed to upset Harley, which is no easy feat.  He told me that I was “shutting him down.”  He said he walks on eggshells around me because if he says the wrong thing, I get angry.  He feels like the only way I am happy if he just nods and agrees with whatever I am saying.  When he responds to something I say, I accuse him of being mad, which he says he is not.

To me, an argument connotes people losing their temper.  Neither one of us did that.  We both were very stressed out, but at the same time, we both value what we have built so far.  I calmed down enough to really listen to and contemplate what he was saying.  Clearly he and I were having two very different experiences of the same conversation.  His experience of our conversation and interaction was clearly not what I was intending him to experience.

We managed to create temporary peace at the end of that particular conversation.  We continued talking later that day.  I felt like a new person.  My PMS was gone.  Harley told me to stop apologizing, so instead I thanked him for his patience.  I tried to tell him what I am about to write, but I could have said it better…in writing.

I am a writer.  Harley is a speaker.  He communicates better verbally than in writing.  For me, it is the opposite.  I express myself well through writing, but I struggle to express myself verbally (unless I have had the chance to write in advance).  The reason I was getting frustrated when I was talking to him was because I was not able to convey what I wanted and it was frustrating.  He was not understanding what I was trying to say and I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to say it any “better.”

In the days since, I have watched my son and I have the same conversation.  Salaar will tell me something and if I don’t understand what he is trying to say, he quickly explodes in frustration.  I am realizing I do a slightly more mature version of what Salaar does.  He did the same thing when he was much younger and his fine motor skills weren’t as advanced as his mental intentions…he would have a temper tantrum.  In his mind, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, but he didn’t have the degree of control over his body to make it happen.  This gap between wanting to do something and being able to actually do it is frustrating.

So, I learned something about myself this week.  After being single for most of my adult life, someone has finally been able to point out to me a really basic (and counterproductive!) communication habit I have.


Giving

November 7, 2008

I quickly recognized that Harley is a better listener than I am.  I didn’t realize that was possible.  I think I’ve gotten lazy and/or distracted over the yeras.  There just is not enough room in my brain to remember all of the details.

As it turns out, he’s nicer and more considerate than me, too.  I knew he was nicer, but I didn’t realize how considerate he was being to me and how I have already begun to take him for granted.

I am so used to dealing with self-absorbed men that I have failed to recognize the extent to which Harley accommodates me.  Harley is “me” in relationships…giving, anticipating needs, doing things without being asked.

It’s strange to realize I am the person who is oblivious and therefore (sometimes) unappreciative of the generosity of another.  Giving is such a quiet thing.  It’s interesting how easily things can fall out of balance.  What I have figured out, at least with Harley, is that he always seems to be putting me (and everyone else) first.  I have to remember to take the time to do nice things for him.  And I have to be persistent!

One night last week, he was really tired.  He had been helping his nephew lay a tile floor.  I asked him if he wanted a massage.  He said, no, that’s okay…you’re tired too.  The other day, as he was dropping me off at my house, he mentioned he had a headache.  I offered to bring him some ibuprofen and a glass of water.  He said, no, that’s okay.  Now that I realize he is being “difficult,” I am starting to do things for him anyway.  So, the other night, I gave him a massage.  I didn’t ask him first.  Success!

It’s such a relief to be with someone who is so attentive.  I finally realized I deserve to be with someone like me.  It will take a little bit of getting used to, but in a good way.


The Brady Bunch

November 3, 2008

Oh, how embarrassing…that’s me front and center!

I have one child and Harley has three.  Mine is 11 and his are all teenagers ranging from 14 to 18.  I have three dogs and two cats.  Harley has three dogs.  That’s six people, six dogs, and two cats.

We have already begun the process of blending our families.  Part of me can’t believe we are blending our families, but that is exactly what we are doing.  That is what is happening.  That’s the interesting thing about my relationship with Harley.  I have always liked him, from the moment I first saw him.  I knew in my heart he was a good person.  I felt at ease around him.  It just happened to take me 6 months to realize that the perfect man was right in front of me.

Everything that is happening feels right.  It feels right when I wake up in the middle of the night with him next to me.  It doesn’t feel right on the few nights I wake up without him next to me.

He already knew my son from the days I bring him to work with me.  I met two of his kids the weekend before last.  He asked me if I was ready for “this” as he took me to his house.  Without hesitation, I said yes.  The five of us went out to dinner together.  Apparently, his kids have been encouraging him to date, but for the longest time, he didn’t want to…until he met me.  I guess it must have been obvious to his kids that he had met someone.  His mood had improved over the previous months.  Then, suddenly, he started staying out late and not coming home, which was completely out of character for him.

Thankfully, they are older and want what’s best for him.  We live 20 miles from each other.  I live closer to work and I rent my house.  He lives further from work and owns his house.

This past weekend, I met his youngest daughter.  I was kind of nervous to meet her.  I had been told she is a handful, and they weren’t kidding.  She is a young, female version of Harley.  She even physically resembles him more than the other two.  To my relief, she has been very nice to me.

Our kids all like each other.  Actually, his kids don’t act like they like each other, but they like my son and my son likes them. 

The really weird thing is that we are the adults!  It is so strange to be around kids and be the “parents.”  At this moment, I’m realizing why Harley laughed when I said that…since I have been a single parent since day 1, I have never been in this position.  Up until the last week, I’ve never kissed a man in front of my own kid or in front of their kids.  As a matter of fact, I just answered the phone 10 seconds ago and said, “hey, baby” only to realize his youngest daughter was calling me to tell me he is on his way to pick me up.  Oops.  That would explain the few seconds of dead silence before hearing a young woman’s voice 🙂

 

 


Everyone Likes Harley

November 3, 2008

When I was out of town the week before last, my mom came into town to take care of my son and dogs.  By the time I told Harley my mom was coming into town, I had already pictured him meeting her and helping her out during the week.  Of course, the first thing he did was offer to do just that.  I told him that would be great.

My mom is on the shy and reserved side, so I made sure she met Harley before I left town.  The four of us went out to dinner.  I couldn’t really tell what my mom was thinking.  I knew she would love him, but I didn’t know how long it would take for her to realize that.  I wasn’t sure if she was going to be put off by the color of his skin (get over it already! & he’s lighter than my son) or his occasional mannerisms.  Regardless, I knew it would be a matter of time before she saw him for who he is…a totally kind-hearted person.

Harley and I sat next to each other during dinner.  I had my hand on his leg.  I find it strange to be dating as an adult in the presence of my parents.  I’m normally not comfortable with PDA (public displays of affection), especially around my parents, but it felt comfortable.  Whatever self-consciousness and tendencies to over think everything (including people’s reactions to my behavior) were just not there.

While I was gone, he brought over a recliner for my mom to sit in (I just had inexpensive chairs from Urban Outfitters), a TV (my son broke our LCD TV, so we had reverted to a tiny archaic TV), and soda for my mom.  Harley knew she likes soda since she ordered it at the restaurant.  He wasn’t sure which kind she likes, so he brought her Coke and Pepsi.

I got back into town about 6 hours before my mom’s flight home.  Before I dropped her off at the airport, I asked her if she thought I should “officially” date Harley.  She said yes.  She told me I would need to learn how to compromise.  She also told me not to take him for granted.  Later that day, Harley asked my son if it was okay if he dated me.  Without hesitation, he said yes.  That was October 24.


Mr. Dubai, Willy Brown, and the Twelfth Planet

October 30, 2008

On our last evening in California, two of my coworkers and I met at a rooftop lounge for dinner.  It turned out to have a swanky nightclub atmosphere.  The view was gorgeous, so we decided to stay for a glass of wine before going out to dinner.  One of my coworkers arrived before us and was already in conversation with a man.  Another man, his brother, approached us.  Mr. Dubai immediately had eyes for me and rudely ignored my companions.

Mr. Dubai was dressed impeccably and had an unlit cigar in his hand the entire time he spoke with me.  To be more accurate, he spoke at me, but I am letting my words get carried away as I remember the illusion of power he was attempting to create in his movements and speech as he interacted with me.

As he attempted to test the limits of my political sophistication and liberal arts education, I rose to the challenge.  Not because I took him seriously, but because I was curious about him.  I didn’t like him or dislike him.  I knew it was unlikely I would ever speak to him again after this conversation.  That’s how I see the people with whom I cross paths, especially if I don’t particularly like them. If they are different and I don’t relate to them, I want to know how their brain works.  I want to know what makes them tick.

So, here I had in front of me this African-American man of Jewish descent dressed to the nines, trying to reel me in with his charm, “power,” and intellect.  He made references to a wide variety of topics in an attempt to find a subject in which he was more fluent than I.  He jumped from politics to war to world trade and I didn’t miss a beat.  Finally, he resorted to flattery.  He started complimenting me, talking about how he is attracted to intelligent women and how much he admires and respects single mothers.  I have heard these lines so many times, I have a hard time believing it when people say it and actually mean it.  He might as well ask me if I come here often for all the good it’s doing him.

I made a reference to the fact that we were going to be finishing our drinks and going out to dinner.  That was pre-emptive strike #1.  Mr. Dubai was clearly looking for any and every available opportunity to dominate me and I was not going to let him take a single one.  No, I am not a shrub and no you are not going to pee on me, thank you very much.

 

He had a book recommendation for me and insisted that I write down the name of the book:  The Twelfth Planet.  More about that another time.  As he  continued to insincerely flatter me with lines he obviously didn’t realize I’ve heard many times before, I told him that even though he was dressed nicely and spoke well, that for all I know he is “completely and totally full of shit” (preemptive strike #2).  He played it off, saying he was full of shit and providing some twist on how that was somehow a good thing and meant something different than what I intended.

Mr. Dubai asked me if I was interested in a career in politics (he is supposedly a political advisor).  I said yes, possibly in a few years.  He immediately told me to find my phone and call “someone.”  I knew better than to ask who I was going to call.  This is all part of his attempt to dominate me.  I played along and dialed the number without asking any questions.  He told me that when the person answered or when I got the voicemail to say, “I am sitting here with Mr. Dubai.  He told me to call you.  I am interested in a career in politics.  Call me back if you would like.  My number is …”

Allegedly, the person I called was Willy Brown, a well known and well-connected politician.  I wasn’t born yesterday, though, so I had my (very serious) doubts.  At this point, Mr. Dubai decided it was time to go.  Interestingly, this is within a few minutes of our drink bill arriving (he and his friend had paid for their own drinks prior to our arrival).  This man, who supposedly travels to Dubai several times a year can’t pick up a $30 drink tab to impress the ladies?  It’s not like I was nice to him or anything, but I did watch and listen to him posture for a good 30 minutes.

The next day, Willy Brown (or a recording of his voice and number) left a message on my cell phone.  I “missed” the call because I was at a conference all day.  I also happen to know that you can use programs on the internet to call people’s cell phones and bypass the ringer so you only have to leave a message.  So, I am not about to fall for this pretend phone tag bull sh!t.  I can call “Willy Brown’s” number every day and somehow miss every single one of his return calls.  I have better things to do with my time.

Even if Mr. Dubai was for real, he was a total jerk.  A wealthy, well-dressed, well-educated, well-spoken dumb@ss.  Later that evening I asked my coworkers the following question:  Would you rather have a man spend his millionth dollar on you…or his last dollar?

Anyway, the moral of this whole story is that this was another one of those times I thought about how much I like Harley.  Actually, I love Harley.