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

Self-Examination

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

 

Second-Guessing

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

Ned

September 16, 2016

The message came as something of a surprise. It was short, and it simply stated that I’d had him by the middle of the first sentence with the word shamanism and that he wanted to meet me. It was surprising on two grounds: first, because most of the men contacting me seemed unaware of what the word meant or had only a vague understanding of it, and second, because it was unusual for a man to jump straight to the suggestion that we meet.

Ned was good looking and apparently active, judging from his photos, and his profile looked promising, despite the fact that he lived in the foothills, just far enough away from my home on the Front Range to make seeing one another something to be planned, not necessarily arising spontaneously. We traded messages and quickly switched to texting one another as we attempted to figure out how and when we might meet. Then I received a text from him that made me utter a soft, “Oh, shit!”

In it, he stated that he had found my blog by googling my first name, my occupation, and the city in which I lived. He had seen the posts about Derek and found his desire to meet diminished because of them. He wished me all the best with that relationship and with all else. The misconception he had formed from my blog was that there was a current relationship with Derek. In other words, he thought I was blogging in real time.

When Ned didn’t answer his phone, I left a message explaining that the relationship with Derek had been over for some time and that if he had concerns regarding being written about, he shouldn’t, on a number of grounds. Then I backed up the phone message with a text. Within ten minutes, he called. “Is this my date who is dating someone else?” he asked in a barely suppressed laugh.

We talked it out. I had liked the fact that he had done more than simply cease contact with me when he thought I was in the midst of an affair with Derek. He had bothered to make contact. I also liked how straightforward he was. And I liked that he could joke about the situation. In fact, there was a lightheartedness to our phone repartee that pleased me a good deal. He was planning on backpacking the next morning and suggested dinner that night. In a moment of unbridled optimism, coupled by the fact that in reading his energy over the phone, I had assessed him to be harmless, I said, “If you’re willing to come as far as Broomfield, we can have dinner at my house. I’ll put a couple of steaks on the grill.”

Ned was silent for a moment, then questioned the wisdom of my having someone I’d never met to my home. He was looking out for me, which I found charming. I assured him that I had already read his energy and knew that he was safe to invite to the house. He accepted that, and we made a plan for later in the day. He asked if he could bring his dogs and I assented. Strange how I was agreeing to have dogs at my house for the second time in a month when, until recently, I had never had anything but a service dog at my home.

Later, he told me that he had nearly called within a half hour of having made dinner plans to tell me, once again, and as a friend, that it was highly unwise of me to invite someone I’d never met to my home. He apparently had not taken seriously my proclamation that I could read energy and had deemed him safe. And I didn’t bother to point out that I’d often had new and potential clients I’d never met to my home office. I also didn’t admit that even I had been surprised by my quick invitation to dinner at my house.

The playfulness that had marked our telephone conversation continued that evening. In fact, it had been years since I had laughed so much with a man. And it was a relief to be able to talk about metaphysical things without having to explain what I meant. He understood without a lot of explanation. Conversation flowed back and forth between us effortlessly, as if we had known one another for many years, or perhaps many lifetimes. We could have easily finished one another’s sentences. In fact, we did a couple of times.

There was also an easy physicality between us that was as much a relief as the ease with which we interacted verbally. Chemistry was not only alive and well, but as effortless as flowing water. It was just a matter of leaning into it, ever so slightly. The next day, he admitted that though he had planned to give me nothing more than a friendly hug upon meeting, he had struggled to avoid kissing me because he had the urge to kiss me immediately. That kiss, followed by many others, had not taken long to materialize.

And I surprised myself by playfully sitting on the edge of his knee to look him in they eye when I wanted to make a point during our pre-dinner discussion as I prepped food. It was unlike me to be quite so brazen. But the easy familiarity that marked our meeting seemed to have duped me into feeling that we were old friends.

Having  read some of my blog posts, Ned was eager to see the infamous step on which Derek and I had shared our first kisses. And in my kitchen, he pointed to the chopping block and asked if it was the piece I had written about that had been built specifically for my diminutive size. He even joked about the fictitious name I would assign him when I wrote about him. He suggested Fernando.

Clearly, there were consequences I had not considered to my having written about myself and my experiences in such detail. At the very least, it had made Ned curious. Were there other consequences I had not anticipated?

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

A Few Good Men, Part 2

September 14, 2016

It was one of the hottest days of the year. Without air conditioning, all I could do was try to pull in cool air at night with my whole house fan and use a small fan in the kitchen, where the heat tended to gather by late afternoon. I hoped John wouldn’t mind, and I thought he wouldn’t. He was an outdoorsman and no wimp. By 7:00 p.m. or so, it would cool down a bit, so eating outdoors would be pleasant. I planned to eat on the lower deck, then retire to the gazebo.

I suspected that John was a multimillionaire, from old money. His mother was related to one of the richest nineteenth century families in America. And while it hadn’t occurred to me, a friend pointed out that his last name was probably attached to one or more businesses that were household names. If any or all of that was true, it did not put him at an advantage with me, but it also did not put him at a disadvantage. I’m comfortable with people at every level of the social strata. I interact well with the rich, the poor, and all levels in between. Income and social standing mean little to me. What matters is what people are made of. That said, I also knew that the old rich have closed ranks. But I was just dating the guy, nothing more. Like many wealthy people, he maintained a low profile. He wasn’t into flashiness. He was into making a difference in the world. I could embrace that.

John was used to being in charge, something obvious in the most casual of interactions with him. I found that humorous when it came to interactions with me because I cannot easily be controlled, managed, or made inferior. During my corporate days, at least one boss had said (with affection) that I was unsupervisable.

If a worthy opponent is someone who, by virtue of who they are, challenges you to be at the top of your game and keep growing, then John and I were likely worthy opponents for one another.

Once the food preparation began, I discovered that John really couldn’t cook, but he was a good student and willing to give up control in the kitchen. He helped prep food, and I had him grill vegies. I grilled the salmon on a plank I’d soaked for the better part of a day. The dinner conversation was easy and pleasant.

When we moved to the gazebo, the conversation continued. He had questions about shamanism and my mystical way of being in the world. I had questions about his work and the nonprofit for which he was planning to raise tens of millions of dollars over the next few years. I also wanted to know something about his family and his life in general. He had brought his sweet, well-behaved dog with him, and the dog quietly sat nearby while we talked.

During a protracted part of the conversation about the ways in which we each move through the world, I moved to sit close in front of him to make a point. Looking him in the eye, I told him that being needs to precede doing. Being a lifelong doer, this is something I understand well. He seemed unconvinced and a bit mystified.

Later, he moved to kneel close in front of me, leaned in, and kissed me. We hadn’t really touched one another in a teasing or affectionate way to this point, so I was not quite ready to get physical with him. And though his kisses were pleasant enough, I avoided anything deep or prolonged. I liked him. I respected him. But he wasn’t Edward Cullen. I doubted I was Bella Swan for him either, though I wondered who would be. He seemed a bit elbows and knees with a woman.

When he left that night, our connection felt a bit like a failed experiment. He was about to leave on an annual fishing trip. I didn’t expect to hear from him before he left, and I rather doubted I would hear from him once he returned.

Another man, equally bright and equally committed to doing important things in the world, also caught my attention. A former university professor, Simon was now consulting around the world using a theory and methodologies he had developed to improve communication and mitigate conflict. We traded messages, switched to e-mail, and scheduled a place and time to meet. Before the meeting, I watched a YouTube video of him discussing his theory. I was fascinated by his approach, and if nothing more, I thought the meeting could produce some interesting conversation.

It did. I was definitely attracted to his mind, if not his physical persona.

I had begun to realize that it was important for me to be open about my blog and reassure any man with whom I met that I didn’t necessarily write about every man I went out with, that I would not write about him if he didn’t want to be written about, that I used fictitious names when I did write about men, and that it would be a mistake to think the latest post represented activities from the last week, or even the last month. I feared I was already scaring off men before we had a chance to meet, and if a man actually made it to the meeting stage with me, I wanted to be transparent about the blog. So we talked about it.

Talking about the blog quite naturally flowed into the subject of dating, and we discussed what might be considered the phenomenology of dating past the age of fifty. We agree that, contrary to popular thinking that we must compromise on our requirements as we get older, we actually narrow the field of what we consider potential partners. He likened it to visually scanning a small movie theater in which a hundred movie goers of the opposite sex are seated.

“At twenty or thirty,” he said, “we might see ninety of the hundred as possible partners. But at sixty, it is more like fifteen or ten.” We’ve had more life experience, know ourselves better, know what we want, have different priorities, and understand that we don’t have unlimited time to sort through endless possibilities.”

I thought it a useful way of describing what I had, myself, experienced. And while I thought I could enjoy his company across numerous meetings, I knew he would not be one of that ten for me.

We parted a bit hastily and awkwardly after two hours or so. A couple of days later, I received a kind and thoughtful e-mail from him. He had enjoyed our conversation, and he liked both my energy and interests. In another place and time, he thought we could be friends, but I wasn’t quite the match he was looking for. He wished me the best.

Though he made no request that I not write about him, I suspected he might have been concerned about that. He surely would not see an appearance on a dating blog as helpful to his work, even if I did disguise him by not using his name or too many details about his life. There was no way of knowing if he actually had that concern because even if I did ask, he might not admit that it was a concern. And I didn’t see myself asking.

That I was finding bright, accomplished men to meet was something of a relief. That they were actually on the dating sites was surprising and even more of a relief. They weren’t simply going to matchmakers, though I was sure that any of the last three men could have afforded to hire a matchmaker. No, they were personally engaged in seeking out a woman within their own generation.

There were at least a few good men out there. If the fates connected me with one, it would be wonderful. And I was willing to wait for the good man who would bewilder and delight me.

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

A Few Good Men, Part 1

September 9, 2016

I was keeping an open mind and an open heart, though in my core, I wanted a date with a guy who would bewilder and delight me. A date that conjured up something like Edward Cullen’s effect on Bella Swan in the Twilight series would be nice. Being mortal instead of a vampire would be a plus, but, hey, I was trying to be open-minded and open-hearted.

Early in June, one man’s photo and profile made me sit up and take notice. He looked a bit like Mel Gibson at his best (before the heavy drinking and questionable behavior). He had been a university professor and professional in the kind of field that made Jewish mothers proud. He played the piano, exercised regularly, was a longtime member of a men’s group, and seemed to have both breadth and depth of interests. He even knew something about shamanism. He was older than me, but for once, I was undeterred by that. During our message exchanges, he commented that he thought we had a lot in common and pointed me to his personal web site, which he suggested I read as a way of getting to know him better.

There was a lot of material on that site. I waded through it like the good trooper I am, and in doing so, I became just a little concerned that he was a bit too sensitive and spiritual in nature for me–which was saying something considering how spiritually oriented I am. But I wanted to meet him and see, in person, what he was made of.

Then my internet connection, which had been sporadic for some time, came to a crashing halt. It took days and a visit from Century Link to repair a line problem to fix it. I struggled to keep on top of things from my cell phone, but I was even having problems with that. When I was reliably back online, I saw that I had no contact from the man with whom I’d been interacting. I waited a few days, and then I sent him a message. In the ensuring exchange, it became clear that each of us had thought the other had simply stopped communicating for lack of interest. I suspected that messages had been lost during my internet problems, but it hardly mattered. While I was struggling with the internet, he was forming a relationship for which he had high hopes.

Perhaps the universe had been intervening on my behalf to save me from spending time on something that would have gone nowhere, but I was a little disappointed. Maybe he was my version of Edward Cullen; maybe not. I wasn’t going to find out.

The man who had sent me the message saying “Like a babe with guns” in response to my gym photo had been texting me, and we’d had several phone conversations. We finally got together for dinner at a restaurant. Spending time with him was like spending time with a good male friend. Of course, that was something of a problem. No bells and banjos. No bewilderment and just a benign sort of delight. We continued to communicate after that dinner, but the relationship eventually fizzled out.

Soon after that dinner, I met with a man named John whose profile had intrigued me. He was chairman of the board of a nonprofit I knew of, and he had several business ventures going. We met over a glass of wine, and I found him intelligent, engaging, and even a bit intense. In a rather startling move, John asked me if I cooked. It was in my profile. He knew that I cooked. “Yes, do you?” I replied.

“I’m not finished with my question,” he said with the kind of authority that only comes after years of being boss. “Where is the best farmers market in the metro area?”

I admitted that I didn’t often go to farmers markets.

“It’s in Golden,” he said with confidence.

“And how do you know that?” I asked.

“I have friends I trust. They’ve told me,” he replied. His tone dared me to challenge him. I didn’t.

John suggested that we go to the Golden farmers market that Saturday, buy some vegies, and retire to one of our homes to cook. I was stunned speechless for a moment, then asked if I’d told him that one of my fantasies was to cook with a man. He said I hadn’t. I fleetingly wondered if I had said something about that fantasy in my profile and had forgotten it was there. Didn’t matter. I liked his thinking.

We met at the farmers market when it opened that Saturday. I was prepared to wander among the stalls in a relaxed manner, but John was all business. We bought food and agreed to meet at my house later in the day. He would procure some salmon and bring it with him, along with a bottle of wine.

He had brought his dog with him, and the two of them took off, heading for the gym and other worthwhile activities. I went back to wander among the stalls and buy some beautiful handmade baskets.

From our conversations, I could tell that John was clearly bright enough for me, and that was important. A man needed mental horsepower to keep up with me. I liked the fact that he was doing important work in the world, and I liked that he had a close relationship with his kids. But he began every phone conversation with, “What have you accomplished today?” There was something off-putting about it. Would he find it acceptable if I answered that I had experienced a deeply satisfying meditation, had communed with a few of the birds in my yard, and had done a little writing? I doubted it. What if I said I’d outdone myself at the gym, had spoken to a potential client, and had spent three hours mowing, trimming, and otherwise tending to my yard and gardens? I doubted that would cut it either. If I said I’d spent four hours editing, I suspected he would want to know why it wasn’t eight and whether the book was any good.

In short, the man seemed very geared to certain kinds of accomplishments. I had worked in the corporate world for many years and had once held myself accountable for accomplishing things that so-called successful people would find worthy. But in the years since completing my apprenticeship in shamanism, I’d left behind that way of being in the world. What I considered accomplishment and what I considered success were highly personal and largely unrelated to what many educated, upwardly mobile Americans strove for.

Would we come together over the shared task of preparing food? Would we find common ground over dinner conversation on my lower deck? Like the other men I’d been dating, he was a good man, but would he bewilder and delight me?

I would soon find out.

 

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

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

 

Not So Innocent Research

September 6, 2016

One of the youngsters who had contacted me on the new site was actually not such a youngster, but at forty-six, he was still young enough to be my son. He had an entertaining and rather outrageous profile. Rather than describing himself, he told the story of an encounter with a drunken homeless man while sitting on the street-side patio at a bar on Denver’s famous Colfax Street.

He was not dissuaded by my usual message response that he was young enough to be my son and therefore too young for me. In fact, he could not be dissuaded at all after numerous messages back and forth. That I continued to interact with him was curious. What was it about him that kept me engaged? I wasn’t completely sure, but the fact that he was very respectful didn’t hurt. And the fact that he was interested in me as a writer probably played a part in the continuing conversation. I rather flippantly told him that he was at risk of being written about in my blog–something I thought would send him packing–and he said he didn’t mind at all.

When he suggested we have lunch, I turned him down. When he kept pressing for lunch and agreed to come to my part of the metro area for it, I began to weaken. When he said he was a vegetarian, he more or less had me. It wasn’t that I prefer vegetarians. I don’t. I’m an omnivore myself. But the combination of things I was learning about him made me doubt that it would be much of a risk to meet him. I agreed to lunch. We set a date. I asked him to pick the place.

Still, I found myself wondering if I knew a woman closer to his age who might be suitable for him, and I told him as much. The day we’d set for lunch came and went without further contact from him. Ten days or so passed and we reconnected. I accused him of chickening out. He replied that I seemed to be trying to pass him off to my younger friends, and he wasn’t interested in someone else, he was interested in me.

I agreed to another go at it. Another date was set. He was reading my blog and enjoying it. He sent me a photo more recent that those on the profile. I sent him one of me not on the site. I knew his full name and did a Google search. I had his e-mail address. He did a little online research on me as well. I knew his profession, or at least his stated profession. He promised to follow through with lunch this time. It was all moving forward.

The day before our scheduled lunch, I asked him to confirm our meeting by the next morning. When I heard nothing, I sent him a text asking if he was actually going to back out again. The text I got back said, “Funny story. Not really funny, but it happened to me. I just got out of jail.”

I texted back, “So not funny. Scratch the meeting.”

I didn’t think the man was a catfisher, exactly. I believed that his photos were actually of him, particularly the selfie he had sent me. And I did not think he had presented a false personality. But some catfishers were not trying to gain financially from their activity, they were just shy, bored, married, in prison, or otherwise disinterested in or unable to date. Instead, they were interested in gaining the attention and affection of someone online to pump themselves up or entertain themselves. And while I didn’t think he had misrepresented himself by photo or personality, I did think he had been playing games. In fact, I had suspected that from the start. And if he hadn’t been, he was still persona non grata by virtue of the fact that he had done something to land him in jail.

As a dating anthropologist, I found it all fascinating. But as one human being interacting with another, I found it disappointing. I had hoped to find a quirky, interesting human being on the other side of the table at lunch.

A second man had interested me enough to entice me into ongoing conversation. He was in his early forties and did not even live in the Denver area, so there was virtually no chance that I would meet him face-to-face, at least not anytime soon. He live in LA. He wanted to shift from the site to Facebook almost immediately–a scammer’s move. But when I checked out his Facebook page, it looked more legitimate than not. He had over three thousand Facebook friends, many of them women. Who was this guy?

He messaged me while I was checking him out on Facebook, having agreed to friend him. What transpired was a thirty-minute exchange that was both hilarious and as close to the message version of telephone sex as I had ever had in my life. I attempted to keep it clean, and he kept moving it into sexual territory. When I thought it had gone far enough, I signed off.

But I remained Facebook friends with him because I was fascinated and because I could not figure out what was real and what was fictitious about him. Were any pictures of him actually him? Did the computer-generated art depicting him represent him visually at all? Granted, he had a penchant for taking a head shot of himself and plunking it down on another person, but was that head shot even of him? Was he a man born on July 11, 1973 as he claimed? Was he a man at all? He represented himself as a writer, poet, lyricist, and philosopher. Was he any of these?

No Google search answered those questions satisfactorily. The link to a website did not work. Links to music produced no music. He had a couple of books on Amazon and photos of him could be found online, but there was nothing that convinced me that he was the person he was representing himself to be.

I was becoming more than Dorothy in Oz, I was Alice, and I had gone down the rabbit hole.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

Another Dating Site

August 31, 2016

I felt I had stumbled into a subculture I had been completely unaware of when I signed up for my first online dating site on my birthday. But two and a half months later, soon after I signed on to a second site, I felt like Dorothy being told she wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

To be sure, the first site had its share of scammers and ridiculously young men contacting me. And some of the scammers were pretty sophisticated in their approach. One scammer contacted me days after the breakup with Derek. I laughed out loud when I saw his photo, not because he was unattractive or had a silly expression, but because he looked like a male model. I was immediately skeptical. But one photo in the lineup had been taken at a fast food joint. It was not professionally done, as the others had been, and it represented the same man in a much more casual pose. It wasn’t even focused well, though it was recognizably the same man. I was still skeptical, but I felt a bit like an anthropologist and wanted to see how my communication with this man might play out.

We texted one another and talked on the phone a few times. He said he was American by birth, but he had live in Switzerland most of his life and had only returned to the US a year or so earlier when his mother died. He definitely had an accent, and I had been around the Swiss enough to find the accent potentially Swiss, but I remained skeptical. He said he was a software guy working in the security industry as an independent contractor who had crews working for him to do implementations. He lived in Lakewood (a city of about 150,000 on the southwest side of the Denver area). I was familiar with Lakewood and asked what part of Lakewood he lived in. When he said, “Near the town center,” I tucked it away as a vote in the scammer column. I didn’t know anyone who would have referred to where they lived in Lakewood that way.

For the most part, though, he deflected personal questions–another check in the scammer column. He was also far too quick to use terms of endearment with me: honey, honey-lamb. Did anyone actually use the endearment honey-lamb anymore? It was a little creepy. He wanted to develop a relationship with a woman slowly and put off meeting on the grounds that he was working many hours on a big project. I packed it all in my mental anthropological journal. My internal BS detector was so loud that it banged my skull from the inside.

But it wasn’t until one particular text that I was sure. He wanted to know what I had been doing one fine day. I had just finished a book editing project and had been running errands all day. I texted about where I’d been and what I’d done. His reply text was, “That’s a lot to do. You must work so hard. How do you play sometimes?”

Yes, the last sentence lacked the kind of sytax that a native speaker of the English language would use, but it was the “You must work so hard” line that set off the internal alarms. If I was a scammer in Sierra Leone or some other Third World country, I might be wired to think and speak that way.

He must have picked up on the fact that I wasn’t buying his line, or he came to the conclusion that I was unlikely to be swept away by a good looking guy giving me attention, or both. Or maybe he just had a better prospect for scamming. I stopped getting texts from him.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from him. “You haven’t been replying to my texts,” he said. “Have you been getting them? I’ve been in England working on a project, and I didn’t have a text from you the entire time I was gone.”

I rolled my eyes on my end of the line. No, I hadn’t received any texts from him. As he talked, I got the sense that he was trying to get a feel for whether or not the sudden loss of communication from him had made me desperate, or even concerned. Of course, it had not. He did not like my coolness. If he had been wondering if I could be groomed, over time, into falling for him and sending him big chunks of money, he had to be losing any confidence in that possibility.

And then the most brilliant thing happened. As his confidence flagged, he lost his Swiss accent for just a few words. But it was enough for me to hear that the accent sounded decidedly African. He was toast, and he seemed to realize it. It ended quickly after that. He asked if I was dating anyone else, and I admitted that I was still on the dating site and going out with other men. This was unacceptable to him. He hung up on me.

As a dating anthropologist, it was a wonderful experience that allowed me to get a feel for how scammers operate. But once I was also on the new site, I was flabbergasted by the sheer numbers of scammers contacting me. Most were not as sophisticated as my fake Swiss friend. The first ones used language poorly, making them easy to spot. But those who showed up after the first wave were a bit better at it. Some had full profiles that were well worded, but their messages to me often lacked the same level of communication sophistication. I suspected that they had copied the actual profiles of legitimate men or perhaps combined parts of several profiles.

But another giveaway that could only be apparent after numerous contacts from seemingly different men was that bits of the same or similar text kept showing up. And there seemed to be a pattern in the online monikers they gave themselves. Often, they had a predictable series of numbers as part of the moniker.

All of this was good research material for the dating anthropologist and writer in me. I sat back, made mental notes, and stayed neutral enough to remain objective like a good little anthropologist.

But what threw me were the contacts from youngsters–men between nineteen and their late forties. Many were blatant, clearly wanting a hookup. One even suggested that he would consume a part of my anatomy not typically a part of heterosexual assignations. Some seemed to be playing cat-and-mouse games. All of them were a mystery to me, but two of them were intriguing enough to prompt more than a couple of messages pointing out the difference in age and stating that I did not date men young enough to be my son. I was willing to interact with them and see where it led. More anthropological research. At least, that was my intent.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Was trading messages with these men innocent research, or was I risking a direct trip to dating hell?

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

 

 

 

Beginning to Date Again

August 24, 2016

An attractive Hispanic man had referred to his love of Pablo Neruda’s poetry in his profile, and I found myself wondering what it would be like to date a man whose sensibilities included an appreciation for great poets. I pulled a volume of Neruda’s poetry off the shelf next to my computer and scanned it for possibilities. I was looking for a little taste of Neruda that might get his attention. I found what I was looking for and included it in a short message.

He messaged back. After a few more exchanges, we met for lunch and spent four hours talking about his life, my life, and our dating experiences. I liked him. I wasn’t at all sure that there would be chemistry there, but I liked him. Because I had been the one to suggest lunch, I snagged the bill when it came. It was gratifying to pay it. Derek had always paid for our lunches out, in large measure because I had fed him dinners and lunches at my house. And before Derek, the men I’d met had paid for brunch, appetizers, and drinks, though I had offered to pay for half. I did not want the men I saw to feel taken advantage of, and though I could do nothing about the men who had already come and gone, I could at least pay for this lunch and begin to settle the score between mankind and womankind.

We agreed to get together again, and I suggested he give me some ideas as we left the restaurant. He texted later to suggest that we get together that evening to cook, watch a movie at home, or just hang out. If I had wondered about his interest, I need not have. But I didn’t see the text until a couple of hours after he sent it, and anyway, four hours was enough for one day. I suggested we get together the following day for drinks and small plates in my gazebo.

On the massage table the next morning, I filled in my longtime massage therapist, David Kochevar, who also happened to be one of my favorite people in the world. David had seen me through jobs that had come and gone, my apprenticeship, Howard’s time abroad, Howard’s illness and death, my grieving, life as a widow, and numerous pulled and strained muscles. I had been with him as his children grew from infancy to young adulthood. We had shared a lot from the massage table, but I valued him for more than that and even for more than his considerable skills as a massage therapist. We often ended up at the same place where spiritual and metaphysical matters were concerned, though we usually got there from somewhat different starting points. I respected him as a fellow spiritual elder.

So when I mentioned that I was unsure that this latest date and I had much in the way of chemistry between us, he speculated that chemistry might be something that sparked after the initial meeting, that it might develop over time. I admitted that I had been considering that very possibility, which was exactly why I was seeing the man again that evening.

It was a lovely evening in the gazebo. We talked easily and well. And then, when it cooled and dusk was settling in, we went inside. What had been easy and comfortable in the gazebo became a bit more awkward once we settled on the couch. Either it was a matter of mismatched chemistry or it was just too soon for me to welcome any kind of physical closeness with this man. Or both. The evening ended on an awkward note.

And despite some discussion about seeing one another again, we did not. But he did give me several gifts nonetheless. One was the sure knowledge that there were, indeed, good men out there. A second gift was a sense of validation that the chemistry with Derek had been powerful and not easily found with another man. A third was an understanding of what a lack of chemistry felt like. And a fourth was the name of a dating site he proclaimed to like better than the one he’d met me on, a site that was free to use at pretty robust levels, a site with dozens of questions to help its members sort out what might be a good match.

I felt I had nothing to lose, so I logged in and set up a profile.

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall