Jake for Dessert

October 28, 2016

I had no time to be concerned about the dinner I was preparing. That was probably a good thing. Jake and I had been trying to figure out when and how to meet. I had a professional meeting half of Saturday. He had tentative plans for Saturday night and was tied up on Sunday. I had a date on Monday.

His plans for Saturday night evaporated, and shortly after 1:00 p.m. that Saturday, we decided to seize the opportunity and meet at 6:00 p.m. I suggested dinner at my house.

What followed was a flurry of texts as we tightened up the arrangements and then a flurry of activity on my part to get myself, the house, and dinner organized. Fortunately, I had plenty of food in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. My attitude has long been that I should be able to put together a small dinner party on short notice using whatever I have on hand, and a woman with that kind of attitude makes a point of having the means to pull it off.

That I had no time to think about the fact that a man fourteen years younger than me was coming to dinner kept me from repeated rounds of asking myself what in the heck I was doing. The previous day, we had agreed that if we met, there would be no expectations. Being open without attachment to any particular outcome was something I knew how to do. But judging from our text exchanges, I knew I wasn’t alone in fantasizing the possibilities. Fortunately, I had no time to get lost in fantasies. I swung into dinner preparation mode.

He was just as adorable and just as nice as his photos and our exchanges had made him seem. But there was something else I could not have foreseen. When he talked, he made direct eye-to-eye contact. And he held that contact for longer than was strictly necessary. It was quietly seductive, with a bit of inquiry and longing in it.

We attempted a little slow dance in the kitchen. But I was in ballet flats instead of any kind of heels, so I stood on my toes to accommodate the height difference between us. That did not lend itself to balance. He quickly abandoned any attempt at steps. I loved being in his arms but found myself tense. The man could dance, and I hadn’t danced in many years. I was horrified at the thought of being found completely and utterly lacking and unsuitable in every way while in his arms. I owned up to my tension. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t feel it. He moved my arms from dance position to encircle his neck and we just swayed, like every high school couple at the senior prom when I was growing up. I was awkward; he was kind.

We chatted through dinner, then before having dessert, we retired to the gazebo and continued to talk. It was nice to be outside, but it was the middle of September, and the ambient temperature had dropped enough after sunset that there was a bit of chill in the air. I had been sitting in front of him and leaned in at one point, asking him to warm me up a bit. He put his arms around me and accommodated my request. When I pulled back again and looked into those riveting eyes, I was helpless to resist leaning back in, this time to kiss him.

What appeared to have been simmering in him immediately came to a full boil. Had he been waiting for me to make the first move? He pulled me in and kissed me with so much ardor that I found myself pulling back just a little and encouraging a bit more gentleness. And then I relaxed into him. I found myself wanting more than his lips and left them to kiss the hollow next to his collarbone, the little notch beneath his throat, his neck just behind the left ear. He murmured encouragement. I gently kissed each closed eyelid, his forehead, and the tip of his nose before connecting with his lips again. I couldn’t seem to get enough. I kissed his throat again and moved down to the top of his chest. He moaned a bit. I moved farther down to the fur on his chest and took each nipple, one at a time. He murmured more encouragement. This was a man who liked having his body made love to, and I liked that about him.

Before long, he was reciprocating, and not long after that, we retreated from the gazebo. Not only was it getting just a bit too chilly to remain outside, we were also both conscious of the fact that our little murmurs and moans were going to attract the attention of the neighbor behind me, who had an open upstairs window, if we kept on with our exploration of one another in the gazebo.

The dessert I’d planned was forgotten. Instead, Jake and I made dessert of one another. We didn’t know one another’s bodies and had to experiment a bit with them, just as I have so often experimented with the ingredients in so many dishes I make, including desserts, to find the right combination of individual ingredients to make the result all the more delectable. Jake was, himself, delectable. No accoutrements or additional spices needed. He not only had a beautiful body, he was a generous lover. And that generosity was generative, giving rise to willing abandon on my part.

It was midnight before he left. I had a massage early the next morning; he had plans for the entire day. But even if we hadn’t each had reasons to finally split from one another, being fully spent, it would have been necessary. Sleeping together would have taken the intimacy to an even deeper place, and neither of us was ready for that. We each needed to take a deep breath and withdraw back into ourselves.

Whatever I thought might happen that evening was pale in comparison to what had actually happened: lust coupled with sweetness; exploration coupled with deliverance; goodwill coupled with generosity. Before that dinner, I felt that Jake and I were playful comrades, unlikely to be more than mutually supportive on our individual quests for romance. Had we just shifted to a friends with benefits relationship?


Note: The name Jake is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall




October 25, 2016

It was the nicest turndown a woman could have, and I said as much in a message to the man. We had checked out one another’s profiles. He’d sent me a message saying that I had a nice smile and a nice profile. His profile suggested that he had numerous and varied interests. One of them was an interest in a particular style of dance with which I was unfamiliar. In fact, while I had taken classes in ballroom dancing in my thirties, I had not danced at all–except by myself in my kitchen, bedroom, and office–in many years. I sent him a message saying that if he was willing to teach, I was willing to learn. I admitted that dancing in the kitchen with a man while cooking dinner was a fantasy of mine.

“Dancing is so much fun. Honest,” he replied. “If what we are looking for was a little bit closer, I would take you up on that idea in a heartbeat!” He pointed out that it takes time to learn and become proficient at that particular dance style. “Your profile intrigued me, and your response is one to savor,” he wrote. “The dancing in the kitchen idea hits me the same way. I have always wanted to do that!” He finished by saying that he had no doubt that I would be a blast to slow dance with.

It was very sweet, but it was clearly a turndown. He was trying, with ever so much compassion and tact, to say that I was just too old for him.

His age? Fifty-three.

Yes, he was too young for me. I had overlooked his age or discounted it when I replied to his initial message.

“I believe that is the nicest turndown a woman could have. All the best to you,” I replied.

I thought I would hear nothing further, but instead, I received another message from him. “I just frowned. I hate that kinda stuff. Guess I have a big heart and respect for women’s feelings. You are absolutely gorgeous and sexy. I hope the best for you also.”

I couldn’t quite tell if he was frowning because I had been so honest about it being clear that he was turning me down or because he felt a little bit bad about the whole situation. I didn’t want him to come to the conclusion that it would be wiser to simply ignore messages like the one I’d first sent him that he had so sweetly replied to with the turndown. I wanted him to know that getting a turndown message was preferable to getting blown off. But I didn’t want to send him another message he would feel obliged to respond to. So I let it go.

Nearly a month and a half later, I saw that he had joined another dating site I was on. This was my opportunity to encourage him to keep being so honest and sweet with women. “Wait a second, I know you,” I said in a message. “You gave me the nicest turndown you could have on the other site. You were bummed about that, but you should know that getting a message as respectful and sweet as the one you sent beats the heck out of getting no response at all. So stay a nice guy.”

He replied that he remembered me well because I had been hard to resist, still found me beautiful and sexy, and liked both my earlier message and the one I’d just sent. What followed was a series of message exchanges between us over the next ten days, followed by a phone conversation and texts for another ten days. A lot of texts–over three hundred.

There was playful flirting and banter in our texts, with an underlying sense of friendship. I liked him. He variously referred to me as hot stuff and baby in our text exchanges, and while it would have come across as smarmy from a lesser man, it came across as sweetly endearing because he was so authentic, honest, and nice. In some ways, he was like a fun combination of close male friend and younger brother, the male friend part being flirtatious and suggestive and the younger brother part being protective when I spoke of my online dating experience.

But at some point, the mood shifted a bit. The flirting became a bit more pronounced and we danced around the idea of meeting one another. Selfies were exchanged. It was reckless. He was clear that he was looking for a woman closer to his own age. I was clear that I found him appealing, regardless of age.

I could end up with a bruised heart again.


Note: The name Jake is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall


All that Heaven Allows

October 21, 2016

I was in my late twenties when I first saw the movie All that Heaven Allows. It was a Valentine’s Day film festival on TV, and I was riveted by the film. In it, Jane Wyman, playing Cary Scott, is a widow who finds herself attracted to Ron Kirby, played by Rock Hudson. He owns a tree nursery and has taken over his father’s gardening and tree service business following his father’s death. They meet when Ron is trimming trees at Cary’s house. Ron is considerably younger than Cary, but social conventions aside, the two fall in love. The movie takes place at a time when it was unthinkable for such an age difference pairing. It gets complicated, but all is made right in the end.

The movie immediately became one of my favorites and has remained so over the many years since I first saw it. For a long time, it was a mystery to me why the movie resonated for me so much. Now, in my sixties, I have some perspective. Jane Wyman was born in 1917; Rock Hudson in 1925. Exactly what the age difference is meant to be in the movie, the scandal the pairing made suggests that it was intended to be at least that much. Actually, Jane Wyman was only thirty-eight and Hudson only thirty when they made that film. Wyman was hardly the middle-aged lady implied for her character.

In one scene, an old family friend has escorted Cary to an event, and as he stands with her at her door when he brings her home, he probes to see if she might be interested in marrying again, and in particular, marrying him. He is a fair bit older than her and overly occupied with the state of his health. He tells her that at their ages, romance is behind them and what they want is solid friendship. She is startled by his statement, and it is clear that friendship without romance is not what she wants for herself. She politely tells him she’s not ready to consider marriage again.

The palpable chemistry between Cary and Ron is all the more sweet on the heels of that off-kilter encounter with the family friend who sees her as little more than a companion. Ron sees her as companion and lover, and she is completely taken with him.

I watch All that Heaven Allows several times a year, and when I found myself in online dating mode, it seemed to call to me more than usual. Had the universe sent me breadcrumbs to find my way home? Had it done so when I was still in my twenties, knowing I would need them when I was in my sixties?

As outlandish as it seemed, I could not quite shake the idea of it. The men most suitable for me where seven to ten years younger than me. Cary struggled with the fact that Ron was so much younger than her, particularly within the context of a society that she knew frowned on the match. There are moments in the film when she seems surprised and even mystified that this man is interested in her. Would I find myself in a similar position? Most of the men my age and even several years younger just did not have my level of vigor and robustness, nor did they seem as engaged in life as me. The majority of the men I was dating were, in fact, younger than me. At some point in my travels with an open heart, would I look into the eyes of a much younger man, clearly in love, mystified by the fact that he is clearly in love with me too?

The gulf between Cary and Ron is not just one of age, it is also one of social standing and lifestyle. Cary’s social circle has material means and status. Ron lives a simple life. Discontented with the superficiality of her social circle, Cary sees through and past it with increasing clarity the longer she knows Ron, and she seems to long for a simple, wholesome life.

I was already there where simplicity and wholesomeness of life were concerned, and I was already on board with the idea of a younger man. Had I been so entranced by the film for so many years because it would one day play itself out in my life? Or was I hallucinating a connection between me and the film? I didn’t know, but I was willing to let my unfolding life give me the answer.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

The Summer of Our Discontent

October 18, 2016

“The summer of our discontent,” I muttered to myself. Then I apologized to William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck for bastardizing their words. But it had been that kind of summer.

Ten days into June, I realized that my right shoulder was compromised and hurting. It was probably the result of increasing the weights on too many upper body exercises in too short a time period, coupled with an incident at the gym and the strain of my daily life, which includes a lot of yard work. Having strained my shoulder before, I thought that a couple of deep tissue massages would make everything right again, so I kept working that shoulder hard at the gym.

Massage couldn’t set it right on its own because I had injured too much and kept right on injuring it at the gym. It wasn’t just the rotator cuff (infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus), it was everything from the bicep to the upper back: bicep; anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids; latissimus dorsi; teres major and minor; rhomboids. Even my pecs were involved. While I iced the area and backed off at the gym just a little, what I did to help the situation was like asking a rattlesnake to back off with a polite request while poking at it with a stick.

That it was my right shoulder and not my left was not lost on me. In the metaphysical and energy work realms, the right side of the body is often considered the doing/giving/masculine side and the left side the being/receiving/feminine side. In my model of the way things work, the universe (God, the divine, guidance) had been trying to send me a message, and I had ignored it to the point that the sledgehammer had been employed to get my attention. But it wasn’t until I torqued my right knee doing yard work that I finally began to question what was going on in any serious way.

I intuitively picked up that my internal masculine and feminine were not in balance. During a massage session, I asked my massage therapist, David Kochevar, to tap into his intuition and ask what was going on. He went inside for a moment and then said that I was pushing too hard at life, particularly where dating was concerned.

That made some sense to me. It was true that after the breakup with Derek, I had not only gotten right back out there with online dating, I had done so with a vengeance. I had been pushing too hard at it. I meditated on the issue and heard from my council (a dozen archangels, ascended masters, and others who guide me) that I had been correct in my assessment that my masculine and feminine were out of balance and that David was correct about my pushing too hard with the dating. I also received a bit of guidance on what to do about it.

Fine then.

A full two months after the injury first made itself known to me through pain, I finally backed off at the gym. What can I say? Anyone who lifts will understand. We are loathe to step back once we have achieved a certain level of weight in our lifting because it is hard-earned. My hubris had been breathtaking, but I finally understood. I ceased all upper body work for a few days. When I returned to it, I lowered the weight substantially, and I avoided the worst offenders completely, particularly the plate loaded chest press and an over-the-head shoulder routine I was fond of. I would not return to the most problematic things until the healing allowed it, and I would keep the weight down until my body told me I could increase it slowly. I knew it was going to take time to undo the problem I had created for myself.

I also scheduled some acupuncture treatments with a longtime friend who just happened to be a crackerjack acupuncturist and practitioner of Asian medicine. Deborah Skelton is also a nurse, but she shifted her practice to Asian medicine after going back to school for a degree in it. She had been practicing for a number of years, and I trusted her implicitly. After explaining the chain of events, I asked her to check in with her intuition to see if she had more to add to what David and I had already picked up. Her intuition was consistent with what had already been revealed: my internal masculine and feminine were out of balance.

But Deborah could demonstrate the imbalance by checking my pulses, something she would do anyway before needling me. Sure enough, my right pulse was racing and my left was weak. She treated the problems in my right shoulder and back, as well as the strain in my knee. Then, after removing those needles, she applied what in traditional Chinese medicine was referred to as the husband and wife treatment, meant to resolve imbalance between the yin and yang. She retested my pulses once the treatments were complete. Both sides were in balance.

Immediately after the treatments, I felt a softening and increased receptivity within me. My strength and innate “doing” nature were still there, but they were modulated by my innate “being nature.” For years, I had experienced good harmony between my internal masculine and feminine. Being out of harmony had not been comfortable, but it took a couple of injuries to really call my attention to it. Now I was back in harmony.

I knew it would take time for my shoulder to fully heal, and I was at peace with that.

My pulses remained in balance when tested the next two visits, but something else snagged my attention. During my first visit, I had noticed Deborah’s beautiful statue of Green Tara. On the second visit, I was not only riveted by Green Tara, but also had a bit of divine inspiration to put some prayer flags on my upper deck. I hadn’t had prayer flags on my deck since my late husband’s return from Iraq, several years earlier, and the prompting to place some there again came out of the blue.

I talked with Deborah about the Buddhist goddess Green Tara then went home to do a little research on my own. Green Tara could be considered a post-feminist goddess and bodhisattva. It is said that in one of her human lifetimes, she was a very compassionate princess who made offerings to the monks. Because of her good deeds, the monks told her they would pray that she return as a man in her next lifetime, to which she replied that there is no man and there is no woman. She vowed to always return as a woman until everyone achieves enlightenment.

Statues of Green Tara show her with her left leg tucked in meditation posture and her right leg outstretched. It is said that the right leg is outstretched so she can leap into action when needed. Green Tara is not simply a goddess of compassion, she is the goddess of universal compassion and enlightened activity. Her compassion is not passive, it is active.

No wonder I was so drawn to her. Here is a goddess with her masculine and feminine beautifully balanced.

While I’d had a tiny Green Tara on my altar for many years, I felt the need for a larger one that I could keep within sight as a reminder and mentor. I ordered one and kept her near. I wanted to make prayer flags dedicated to love, but I didn’t have time at that moment to make them, so I ordered prayer flags online with the image of Green Tara and the Green Tara mantra (om tara tuttare ture soha) on them and hung the flags on my upper deck.

Surrendered to the need to relax into my dating experience instead of pushing so hard and with Green Tara’s help, the knee was back to normal quickly and my right shoulder began to heal. A month after my surrender, I felt I turned a corner in the shoulder healing. I realized it would take additional weeks or even months to be completely back to normal, but I could feel the substantial improvement.

Perhaps the summer of my discontent would give way to the autumn of my fulfillment. I didn’t push for that, though. I just surrendered to whatever was to come.


Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved. The name David Kochevar is real. David, who is the best massage therapist I know, owns Kochevar Medical Massage in Broomfield, Colorado. Likewise, the name Deborah Skelton is real. Deborah, a gifted acupuncturist, owns Twin Cranes, an acupuncture and Asian medicine practice, in Boulder, Colorado.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall



The Archetypal Man

October 7, 2016

I couldn’t see the face of the man in the clinch, so I couldn’t determine if it was Derek. But there was something about that clinch the man was in that made me think it might be him. The couple was not in any hurry to end the embrace, and I was beginning to feel uncomfortable about gawking at them, so I turned and walked away. I felt as if some of my blood had drained out of me, making me a little weak and off balance.

I knew that Liam had seen me looking at the couple and also knew that I was a bit distracted, so back at the car, I admitted that I’d had a moment of thinking the man in the clinch was Derek, who I had gone out with for five weeks that spring. I felt I owed him the truth about my behavior. He was silent.

As we headed towards Allenspark, Liam made a rather sarcastic comment about my so-called trip down memory lane that day. I was taken aback. Not one to wallow in the past, I nevertheless do love to share places I’ve been to with people. That was what I thought I’d been doing with Liam that day. He seemed to see it otherwise or perhaps was a bit annoyed by my reaction at The Chapel on the Rock and was referring to that as the trip down memory lane. I didn’t ask what he meant but was somewhat defensive about not usually being prone to excursions into the past.

We parted quickly once back home. We had spent eight hours together, and Liam looked tired. Was he just tired from our adventure or was he weary of me? It wasn’t news to me that I could wear out men. Perhaps Liam had spent enough time with me that he was wondering if we could be friends after all.

I still felt off balance. I could not get that couple’s embrace out of my mind. But then, I could not get the image of all those couples in Estes Park out of my mind either. All day, I had felt a longing for something I was lacking: being part of a couple with a man I loved and who loved me. Had I been stopped in my tracks by the motorcycle couple because the man reminded me of Derek, or had the man reminded me of Derek because he was so clearly into the woman with him?

What had really caused the small moment of shock at the sight of the couple?

I paced my bedroom as I let myself feel whatever it was that was churning within me. Did Derek still have a hold on me, fully two and a half months after our five-week relationship ended? Was that possible? In my mind, I allowed myself to be right there in front of that couple in the clinch. The man I now doubted had been Derek had reminded me of Derek mostly because the way he held the woman with him had propelled me right back into the feel of Derek’s embrace. It was the embrace itself that was so compelling. When Derek had held me, I felt adored, valued, prized even. And I felt part of a twosome that was merging into oneness with every embrace.

Derek had become the archetypal man: hero and lover; protector and friend. From the night he had first come to dinner, I had realized that he roused something that transcended who he actually was. In fact, the two of us together transcended who either of us was separately. And he had so many qualities I wanted in a man. He had become a kind of prototype. Or perhaps it was more that our brief relationship and my ongoing thoughts about him had conjured the feelings I wanted to have about a man.

Those feelings I wanted in relation to a man, in relationship with a man, were what had made me stop in my tracks at The Chapel on the Rock. Was it coincidence that it had happened there, or had members of the divine fellowship that look out for me and guide me conspired to make it happen in that place I considered holy? Had the holy quality of the place lent some power to the event?

I didn’t really know. What I did know was that once I saw that Derek had become the archetypal man for me, some hold he still had over me released its grip. Did my heart still warm at the thought of him? Yes. But I suddenly felt more objective about it.

That daytrip with Liam had been very useful. It had crystalized an understanding within me: I could not settle for a man I liked but who could not invoke the feelings I wanted for a man with whom I was in relationship. And the experience at The Chapel on the Rock had crystalized another understanding: The man I wanted invoked the feelings I’d had with Derek.

Was it possible to find and attract the archetypal man–my own version of the archetypal man, not a universal one? Could my longing for him draw him in?


Note: The names Liam and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall



October 4, 2016

It takes time for some things to develop: Good wine is cellared. Fruit is at its best when given the time to ripen. Cheese is aged. I needed more time with Liam to figure out if anything could develop between us, so I invited him to dinner. He had a lot of questions about shamanism. By the end of dinner, I felt I’d given him a better sense of shamanism, but I didn’t feel I had a better sense of who he was. His modus operandi seemed to be to get his partner to talk so he didn’t have to. The only thing I did have a sense of was whether I perceived any chemistry on my part developing. I didn’t.

Liam wanted to help with things I needed having done around the house but couldn’t do myself, and I was delighted to have the support. But I wanted him to know that I didn’t think there was going to be any chemistry between us. I didn’t want to take advantage of the man. His response was, “That’s okay. I need friends.”

What a refreshing response.

A few days later, I contemplated taking a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park, a place I loved but hadn’t been to in a long time. I didn’t really want to go alone; I wanted a playmate. Since Liam had only lived in Colorado for a year and a half, I thought he possibly hadn’t been there yet and might want to go with me. He hadn’t and did.

So on a Sunday morning, he met me at my home and we set off on a little adventure to Rocky Mountain National Park. Once through Boulder and past Lyons, the drive towards Estes Park becomes progressively more scenic, and I always feel myself relaxing as the number of trees and rocky crags begins to overtake the number of houses. As the road hits a high spot and then begins to dip down toward town, that first glimpse of Estes Park and Lake Estes always elicits a happy sigh. I thought Liam would like it.

I could only guess that he did because he was his usual quiet self.

Rocky Mountain National Park was the busiest I had ever seen it. I pointed out spots where I’d previously seen elk and other wildlife while driving through the park, and we stopped for a short hike on our way up Trail Ridge Road. We discovered that we couldn’t even stop at the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass (11,789 feet) because the parking lot was full, so we headed back down the road, made our way through the continuing glut of cars, and left the park, heading for Estes Park. I was disappointed that Rocky Mountain National Park had been so full of visitors but was confident that I had at least shown Liam enough to lure him back later, when most of the summer visitors would be gone.

Estes Park was not only full of cars, it was jammed with people on foot. El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico, has its pilgrims during Holy Week. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, draws tens of thousands during the twelve-day festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Was there a religious festival I didn’t know about with its epicenter in Estes Park, Colorado? The number of people in town was mindboggling. Still, I thought Liam should see the main drag, from one end to the other, so we made our way through the mob. At one point, I took his hand, wanting to make sure we stayed together. Then I thought to ask if taking his hand was okay. It was.

The number of couples around us was not lost on me. Liam and I were not a couple. That was not lost on me either. We lunched on the veranda of Mama Rose’s restaurant, overlooking the Big Thompson River. And while I managed to nudge Liam into talking about himself a bit, it became clearer and clearer to me that I was not with a man I could engage as I watched couples waking hand-in-hand and families strolling along the river walk next to us. I wondered what it would take to engage him, or if anything could.

I wanted Liam to see The Chapel on the Rock (formally named the Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel) on the grounds of Camp Saint Malo. The Saint Malo retreat and conference center had been seriously damaged by fire in 2011. Then a mudslide in 2013 wreaked havoc on the property. But the chapel had survived both. I wasn’t trying to expose Liam to something religious. I’m not Catholic myself, or even Christian, for that matter. But the tiny chapel, perched on rock and built of stone, is a beautiful, unique structure. For me, The Chapel on the Rock is also a holy place. I didn’t expect him to feel that way about it, but I also couldn’t imagine him not appreciating it.

Getting to the chapel also held the advantage of taking us on Highway 7, which is a small part of the Peak to Peak Highway, arguably one of the most scenic routes in Colorado. We could take Highway 7 to The Chapel on the Rock, then go on to tiny Allenspark, and finally loop around back to Lyons on our way back home.

A family was in the parking lot at the chapel when we arrived and a motorcyclist with a rider pulled in directly after us. A girl from the family told us that the chapel had just been closed for the day. We would not be able to go inside, but since I thought Liam would appreciate the structure itself more than anything else, that wasn’t really a problem. We could still walk the perimeter of the building.

There was a path I thought went all the way around the building, but I realized that it actually terminated at one end as I led the way and almost came upon the motorcycle couple, who had stopped at the end and were just initiating an embrace. I stopped in my tracks and began to back away.

Then I stopped in my tracks again and craned my neck towards them. Was it? Could it be? Was the motorcyclist Derek? I turned to look at the motorcycle. It was a black Harley. Derek’s motorcycle was a black Harley. I tried to get a closer look, but the couple was in a serious clinch at that point, and I could not see the motorcyclist’s face. He was wearing a ball cap, not a Buff, which was Derek’s usual choice in headgear. Still . . .

Was I looking at Derek in the midst of an embrace with another woman?


Note: The names Liam and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

More Good Men

September 30, 2016

Knowing what kind of relationship I wanted was one thing; figuring out from a profile and photos if a man might be a potential partner for such a relationship was something else again. I reminded myself to keep an open mind and an open heart because profiles and photos provide a very limited representation of a person. It’s like trying to see El Capitan or the Trevi Fountain through a hole you’ve poked through a sheet of paper with the tip of a pencil.

Henry liked my profile, thought we had some things in common, and wanted to know more about shamanism. He was older than me, and he looked older in his photos. He also looked a bit stiff, though I wasn’t sure I could actually tell that from a photo. And he was tall enough to likely find me a bit too diminutive to be a fit for him.

Still, I liked the intelligence that could be read through the lines of his profile. I had deflected a lot of men I thought would be too old for me. Some of those men were chronologically older than me, some were around my age, and some were younger than me, or claimed to be. Since some men stretched the truth about their age, I could never be sure how old someone was unless I could do a little online sleuthing. I considered taking a pass on this man, but based on his profile, I thought we might have a great conversation, at the very least. After a few false starts and my giving him the opportunity to back out based on our height difference, we set a date to meet.

When he stood up as I entered the restaurant, I could see that he was every bit as tall and lean as he said he was, but he was also quite a bit younger looking and definitely more attractive than his photos suggested. I made a mental note to remember that first impressions based on photos can be faulty.

There was something about this man that made a woman want him as a friend. And, in fact, he said that half of his friends were women. That had actually been a problem for him when it came to dating because at least one woman he’d dated was not willing to be with a man who had so many female friends. I, on the other hand, found myself thinking that a man with a lot of female friends was probably a man who genuinely liked women. And there are few things I find sexier than a man who likes us women as human beings, not just as potential sex partners or maids.

We talked easily and well straight through dinner and took a walk in the rain afterwards. Just knowing some men is uplifting. He was one of them.

Shortly before my dinner with Henry, I met another man, one who had found me on a dating site I had only recently joined. After three months on the original dating site, I felt I was repeatedly seeing photos of the same men I didn’t think were a fit. Too few new men were joining the fold. I needed a bigger pond to swim in, but I still had three months of paid membership, so I didn’t drop the site, just added another site with a larger membership. The free site I’d been on, the one with endless scammers, was not a viable option, but I planned to visit it on occasion for a while longer, mostly in my role as dating anthropologist.

Liam, who was from the Midwest and had only lived in Colorado for a year and a half, had a killer smile. But other than the smile, it was a bit difficult to get a fix on him because he liked, as he said, to keep his ears and his mind open. What that seemed to mean in practice was that he preferred asking questions to saying much about himself.

I did know that he was already retired at sixty, that he was involved in multiple activities that kept him in shape, and that he liked to fix things. Like me, he was of Irish descent. Unlike me, he wasn’t much of a cook. His lack of enthusiasm about cooking could probably be explained, though, by the fact that he had lost most of his sense of smell, which also meant that he couldn’t taste much.

Could I actually find myself attracted to a man who had lost most of his sense of smell? It wasn’t just about food, it was about the sensory experience that tells us the person we’re nuzzling up against is suitable for us–the sensory experience directly related to smell. I knew that other women understood the importance of smell to mating. Did men? And if men used their sense of smell in finding a suitable mate, either consciously or unconsciously, how did Liam make up for that?

But there was one other thing: Liam was an atheist.

Could Melanie the mystic find herself in relationship with an atheist?


Note: The names Henry and Liam are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall


September 27, 2016

Did I really know why I was dating? What kind of man was I looking for? What kind of relationship did I want with a man? My experience with Ned had provoked those questions. I decided some self-examination was in order.

When my husband, Howard, died, I was happy to be alone for quite some time. Not only was it a matter of the toll that illness and death had taken on me, it was a matter of having spent many years in relationship, which, among other things, meant always having another person close at mind, respecting the other’s wants and needs, and considering the other in everything from planning the day’s activities to deciding whether to buy a new car. There was a luxurious kind of freedom in having only myself to take into account. The flip side of that, though, was a lack of intimate companionship, a lack of ongoing discourse with a man who cared about me as much as I did him, and a lack of knowing that a man loved me and always had me close in mind. There was paradox to it.

It was illuminating to see that some of the things I had been happy to leave behind had become the things I longed for: another person in the house, someone who actually cared what my plans for the day were, someone to cook for and care for, someone intruding on my time alone. It wasn’t that I wanted to be married again or even live with someone again. I liked my time alone enough to want it on a regular basis, and I didn’t much see the point in marrying again at my age. Besides, marriage meant taking on certain aspects of another person’s life that I was pretty sure I didn’t want to take on: their financial obligations, their credit history, some of their legal commitments. It also meant that some things, like the Social Security benefits I was currently receiving, would be impacted.

For quite a while I wanted, or thought I wanted, a companion who could accompany me to arts events, someone I could have over for dinner, someone who was a good conversationalist. Slowly, I began to realize that I wanted more than that. I wanted a serious long-term relationship, one that involved love and commitment, even though it was outside the social structure of marriage. But many or most of the men I dated seemed to want a relationship that would involve cohabitation and even marriage. That came as something of a surprise to me, though I knew that widowers sometimes married quickly after the death of their wives. It seemed that men were more fragile than women in some ways, or at least more in need of someone to take care of the everyday details of living–like cooking, laundry, and housecleaning.

I wanted to be honest with the men I dated about what kind of relationship I was looking for, but perhaps I was a bit too quick to state that I wanted neither marriage nor cohabitation. I had sworn off marriage in my thirties only to marry again. The right man and the right conditions had changed my mind. Perhaps they could again. I knew myself well enough to know that sometimes, at least, when I took a firm stance against something, I later did a 180 on it.

What kind of man was I looking for? I had considered that over time, and I had a long list of characteristics in my mind, some of them also on paper. My recent experience with men had not changed the kind of man I was looking for. It had, however, reminded me that what sparks the heart has no respect for the lists of characteristics we make for ourselves. A man might lack half or more of the characteristics on my list and move me to the point of making me weak in the knees. On the other hand, a man might have so many of the characteristics I was looking for that long-term success in a relationship seemed a given, but the lack of tug on my heart would make even a short-term relationship unlikely. I didn’t think I needed to reconsider the kind of man I was looking for.

But I did want to revisit the kind of relationship I wanted. It seemed to me that more of my fantasy life was wrapped up in the kind of relationship I had with a man than in his physical or behavioral characteristics. In fact, the man I fantasized was more an energetic force than a physical object. Asking myself what kind of relationship I wanted impelled images, feelings, and thoughts. They came tumbling out of me in no particular order of importance.

I wanted a relationship that satisfied me intellectually, emotionally, physically, and yes, even spiritually. We would be able to converse as equals, and we would seek out one another for counsel, conversation, and lighthearted verbal play. We would share a level of physical intimacy that was comfortable, inspiring, exciting, temporal, divine, unrestrained, tender, novel, familiar, salacious, sensual, and ethereal–not necessarily all at once or all the time, but usually comprised of some nourishing combination of those things. Sex had to be a part of it, but the physical intimacy needed to be about more than sex. And the sex needed to be often enough to keep us interested and satisfied without being so often that we were worn out and fantasized the other taking a holiday without us.

We would do things together, but we would also do things on our own and be happily engaged in both the conjoint and separate aspects of our lives. Likewise, some of out interests would be in common and some would be separate. We would include friends and family in our life together, too, knowing that we needed more than one another to have fulfilling lives.

I had held a fantasy about cooking with a man for some time, but was that really the root fantasy? What had given birth to the fantasy was my love of cooking, of nurturing others with food, and of the particular kind of intimacy that sharing a meal generates. And I loved being cooked for as much as I loved cooking for another. That fantasy was really about having a relationship that included a shared love of food (mostly healthy food) and an appreciation for the salubrious aspects of preparing and sharing food with the one you loved. It was as simple as that.

I wanted a relationship with a man who loved and admired me as much as I loved and admired him, one in which we each strove to care for and please the other. There had to be playfulness and laughter to it too because, for me, play and laughter are critical elements of tending to and nurturing a relationship.

Was it possible to be in a relationship with a man who wasn’t satisfied with letting me take care of him, our daily life together, and the relationship itself by myself? Could I let in a man who wanted to take care of me as much as I wanted to take care of him, who wanted a mutual kind of nurturing? A man who could give without controlling and take without feeling diminished? I wasn’t sure, but it was what I wanted.

As I contemplated what I desired, images and feelings continued to tumble around in me like stones being tumbled by a rushing creek, refining them, making them smooth and beautiful. No, I wasn’t looking for a boy toy, as Ned had implied. I wanted much more than that. And I didn’t plan on settling for less.


Note: The name Ned is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

Ned Unglued

September 23, 2016

Some of us are wired to expect the best from people and experiences. Others expect the worst. We tend to get what we expect, either from the people and the experiences or our perception of them. I tend to expect the best from people and experiences, and I usually have that experience. I am something of a paradox, though. On the one hand, I have a built-in BS detector; on the other, I have been accused of being gullible. I can be fooled, but generally not for long.

Based on my limited experience with Ned, I wondered if he expected the worst from people, or perhaps he was also a paradox, though a different kind than me. My face-to-face experience with him had been delightful, upbeat, and positive, but the phone conversations and texts were mixed. He seemed to question our interactions after having them, as if teasing them apart, looking for something a little unclean or wrong in them.

Five days after the dinner at my house, Ned had business in the metro area and visited me once he was done with it. We retired to the gazebo, herbal tea in hand, and picked up a thread of conversation as if we had just seen one another hours earlier. We talked about his writing, my writing, shamanism, business, backpacking, our mutual attraction, and whatever else came to mind, spending more time on some subjects than others. It was not all easy and comfortable, though.

Ned had done peyote–a lot of peyote. My shamanic work is free of drugs for several reasons. Apart from the obvious illegality of most drugs, they are simply not needed to enter a shamanic state of consciousness. Not only are they unneeded, I had witnessed the deleterious effects of drugs enough to know that they are usually ill-advised. I had energetically seen/felt cracks in the psyches of those who had done drugs when they were psychologically and spiritually unprepared for them.

I was not convinced that Ned’s peyote use had been necessary to take him to where he had wanted to go, nor was I convinced that he was a good candidate for it. I owned up to the former and kept the latter opinion to myself for the time being because I didn’t yet know him well enough to have a good sense of that, though his rather erratic behavior seemed to support the opinion that he might not have been a good candidate for peyote. That I do not employ drugs in my work seemed to mystify Ned a bit, perhaps because it was not consistent with his limited experience with shamanism and shamans.

My use of the word shaman was troubling to Ned. In his model of the world, the word was simply not spoken by one who actually was a shaman. It was a point of view I had heard before. He seemed to have some intrinsic doubts about my shamanic work because of that mindset. And having been on the receiving end of belligerence about this issue in the past, I was a bit defensive.

But for the most part, our interaction was intimate and playful. Ned wanted to sleep with me under the stars but was clear that he was willing to keep sex out of it because he didn’t think either of us was ready for that. I wasn’t so sure about him, but I knew I wasn’t ready for it. I pointed out that sleeping with a person is, in many ways, a more intimate act than having sex with them. He agreed, but he still wanted to share that experience with me. I found his desire to take me backpacking and sleep under the stars with me to be completely charming and even enticing, but it was too soon for me to consider it.

It was that sense of intimacy and playfulness that led me to do something that felt innocent enough but was definitely misguided. The consumption of herbal tea had prompted the need for a break, so we went indoors to separate bathrooms. When I came out of the master bath, I saw that my neighbors across the street, Kathy and Glen, were about to leave for a getaway trip. I had agreed to water some pots and collect their mail for them, and I knew that they were curious about this new man at my house. Kathy was reading my blog, and we had chatted about my dating experience. Glen was always aware of what was going on in the neighborhood. I thought they would want to catch a glimpse of the new guy.

When we were both ready to go back outside, I took Ned’s hand and asked him to come with me. I wanted to touch base with Kathy and Glen before they left and this was an opportunity to introduce them to Ned, which seemed preferable to surreptitious peeks as Ned came and left. Ned seemed a bit reluctant, but not overly so. I made the introduction. Kathy and Glen were their usual gracious, friendly selves. Ned appeared a bit uncomfortable.

In the annals of dating, it is said that introducing a man to your friends prematurely is a quick way to throw cold water on a budding relationship. I should have considered that. But Ned and I had been intimate and playful that afternoon. He was moving forward in the nascent relationship quicker than me. As a result, I had a moment of lapsed common sense. The introduction seemed harmless and almost insignificant.

And it appeared to have been exactly those things judging from Ned’s behavior once we were settled back in the gazebo and right up to the time he left. That evening, we texted one another lightheartedly and chatted on the phone.

Except that it wasn’t, at least not by the next day. Just as he had done previously, Ned seemed to have replayed our time together and found problems with it. When I texted him that my neighbor found him gorgeous, what he texted back was a long, angry text that ended by suggesting that I had trotted him out like a toy pony. My text of surprise and confusion back to him elicited more anger. He had come unglued. Much later, I received a text from him stating that he did not want to pursue anything further with me and was sorry he had texted from a place of reaction instead of picking up the phone.

I felt an immediate sense of relief and realized that Ned’s second-guessing and mood swings constituted way more drama than I wanted to experience with a man. And even though my act of taking his hand and walking across the street to the neighbor’s house without explaining what I was doing could definitely be seen as bad form, it really had been innocent and therefore ignorant on my part. But when a person is looking for people and experiences to be a problem, they will not only see them that way, they just might come unglued.

It wasn’t the first time I had done something that brought out the true nature of things quickly, and I thanked my guidance for prompting me to rapidly put things into perspective so I wasn’t wasting my time in a liaison that would never work. But I felt a bit like a child who had been slapped for doing something she really hadn’t realized was wrong. Ned seemed to think I was looking for a boy toy. If I had been looking for a boy toy, I would have picked someone younger than Ned. There had been numerous men between nineteen and forty-six who had made themselves available for such encounters. I wasn’t looking for a boy toy. But I was inspired to ask myself what exactly I did want to get out of this dating adventure.

What were my travels with an open heart about? What was I looking for? I needed to do a bit of soul-searching.


Note: The name Ned is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved. The names Kathy and Glen are real, and I am forever thankful to have them as neighbors and friends.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall



September 20, 2016

Once upon a time, a woman in the full, blowsy flower of her life decided to leave the surroundings that had become so comfortable and familiar to her that there was nothing much new to explore. She wanted to feel the fullness in her heart and quickening of her soul that came when she stepped into the unknown, and so, with an open heart, she set out on an adventure, traveling with an open heart to places as yet unknown to her.

She chose to be present to all of the things that crossed her path because she knew that if she ventured into her memories of what had come before this moment or speculated on what might come around the next twist in the road, she would soon be back at the door she had so recently left, feeling comfortable with the familiar, but missing the opportunity for the taste of glistening nectar that accompanies now . . . and now . . . and now. And she did not want to sacrifice one instant of savoring a thimbleful of that incomparable elixir for the predicatability of whole mouthfuls of last year’s wine.

That was my position, and I was sticking to it.

It did not seem to be Ned’s approach.

Ned seemed confused, troubled, and even a little depressed when he called the next day. Our first face-to-face meeting had thrown him off-balance, and he apparently didn’t like the feeling. While I was feeling wonderful and only just a little off-balance myself, he reported feeling less than happy.

A part of it, to be sure, had come from the fact that he had scarce left my house before being stopped by the local police. It had been midnight and it was but twenty-four hours from July 4. The Grateful Dead-descendent band had played at CU, Boulder, that night. The local police were, no doubt, on the lookout for drunk or stoned drivers. Ned was neither. He’d drank little wine over the course of the five hours he’d been at my house. They gave him a questionable ticket anyway, probably because he had been completely uncooperative.

But more of his angst seemed to be coming from the fact that he had found himself pulled into my gravity field unexpectedly and without having thought through what it might mean at some uncertain future point in time. He lived in the foothills and disliked coming down to the metro area where I lived, but he also felt it would be unfair to manage his distaste of the city by always expecting me to come to him. He pointed out that I had stated no desire to marry again and was unsure about even living with a man again, while he liked cohabiting. He was completely drawn to me, but could not fathom how it could work.

To say that he was getting ahead of himself would have been like saying that I could not come to see him in his mountain aerie in July because the road to it might be impassible in January. It was true that we lived some distance from one another. I did not like commuting much more than he did, though I lacked his particular disdain for it. It was also true that I could not see myself marrying again and could not even imagine living with someone again. But then, I hadn’t planned to marry again before I met my late husband. Life has a way of sorting itself out and shaking us out of our opinions about what is likely, desirable, or even possible. I had made sharp left-hand turns in my life before and knew I might again. But none of that had been in the forefront of my mind the night before. I had simply allowed myself the delight of being surprised by the succulence of our connection.

He wanted to think it through and have it all figured out without even knowing much about who I was or how that succulent connection might unfold when we next met, let alone months down the road. So again, we talked it out. It was the second time in twenty-four hours that I was processing something with the man. Was there a pattern here? He had been keen to meet me before he found my blog and jumped to some conclusions. I could not really blame him for that. But within the same twenty-four-hour period, he had jumped to the potential pitfalls of long-term relationship with me after one face-to-face encounter that had completely entranced him. He seemed on the lookout for problems and seeds that might not sprout instead of allowing himself a moment of awe about what had actually been his experience the previous night.

It took more than two hours to talk this one out. It made me wonder if he was more drama king than mountain man, but I was willing to allow it all to reveal itself organically. He might have been second-guessing our encounter, but I didn’t want to follow him down that path.


Note: The name Ned is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved.


Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall