The Mystery of Men, Part 2

November 29, 2016

Like the fundamental laws of physics, there seem to be online dating laws we women have to deal with, just as we have to deal with gravity. And let me tell you, the older I get, the more I resent gravity.

One of those laws is that the men you are uninterested in will inevitably be interested in you while the men you are interested in will be uninterested in you.

I am uninterested in some men for a variety of reasons: They live out of state. They live within the state but at too much distance to make dating them enjoyable or even feasible. They are too old for me, whether chronologically or by virtue of my sense of their robustness. They are too young for me. I don’t find them attractive. They either seem to have a feminine side that is overdeveloped or a masculine side that renders them little more than one step above Neanderthal. They have religious beliefs that will probably make us incompatible. There is too big a gulf between our lifestyles and interests. They smoke.

Why are some men uninterested in me? I’m clueless. It is one aspect of the mystery of men. It might be for reasons similar to those that make me uninterested in some men, or it might be for reasons I have not plumbed. Actually, I often do not know if a man I might be interested in is, in fact, uninterested in me. He might have simply not provided me with enough clues to tell me that he might be interested.

I kept returning to one man’s photos and profile. He had asked a question on his profile and suggested that the woman who could answer it might be old enough for him. This was an approach I had never seen before, so I finally sent him a message giving the answer to his question and telling him that is profile and photos had made me smile.

I heard nothing back from him.

I was disappointed.

He was a few years younger than me, but no so much younger that he was age-inappropriate. He appeared to be an architect or at least in the building design/construction field. He had referred to a rather iconic structure in the mountains as having been his opus. I figured that a man who could use the word opus probably had enough mental horsepower for me. But apart from that, his connection to architecture appealed to that part of me that has long appreciated architecture and design. I own a copy of A Pattern Language for heaven’s sake.

He kept cats instead of dogs, something unusual in a state where dogs probably equal humans in numbers. I had lived with three cats for the better part of their entire lives. They all died of old age with me. And while I haven’t lived with felines for many years, I still have a fondness for them and am of the opinion that there is a fundamental difference between cat and dog people. I liked that he was a cat person.

He didn’t seem to work out as much as me, but he liked to hike. And he liked to skinny-dip in mountain lakes. That he actually had skinny-dipping in his profile was also something I had never seen. Did that suggest a sensuous man? I hoped so. But aren’t mountain lakes frigid? I wanted to know more.

He wanted a woman who is self-confident and comfortable in her own skin. His backyard was one of his favorite places, and he enjoyed gardening. He was into woodworking and photography, and he’d read How the Irish Saved Civilization.

There were numerous other indications that he might be a man I’d find devastatingly appealing. But there was no reason to believe that the man was going to message me. I could let it go or I could send him another message, a longer one that spoke to at least a few of the things I thought we have in common. So more than two months after the first message, I reminded myself that I really had nothing to lose, except maybe my pride, which was worth losing, and sent the message.

I had no expectation of hearing back from him.

The following day, I got a message from him. Yes, he was an architect. He’d been the principal in charge of development for a large, well-known organization. He thanked me for reading and understanding most of his profile notes, and he said that I was the first to do so. But he also said some mysterious things: He was struggling that day, he said, with an attack of some kind on his nervous system, which, he added, made him anything but the strong man I had referred to needing in my profile. If he could beat what was trying to beat him that week, he would be in touch.

Once again, I was reminded that men are a mystery to me. What in the world did he mean by an attack on his nervous system? And when he said he was struggling “today,” did he mean that calendar day or some longer part of this moment in time? Did he have a disabling chronic illness or just some passing virus? I had no idea.

I waited a week with no message from him. Had he just been trying to let me down in that indirect way that men sometimes do online? My second message to him had given him permission to be direct: “If you’re curious at all or might be interested at all, I’d love to hear from you. If not, I’d still like to hear from you by way of thanks but no thanks.” I’m a pretty direct person. Kind, but direct. I like directness. Was he being coy instead of direct?

I was back where I’d been before I’d left that second message. Should I just let it go or should I check in with him to see how he was doing? If I did send him another message, would he view me as that self-confident, comfortable-in-her-own-skin woman he said he wanted, or would he view me as desperate and pushy?

And would men ever stop being a crazy-making mystery to me?

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

The Mystery of Men, Part 1

November 22, 2016

I like men. I have more than liked a number of them, I have adored them. One was my husband; a couple were lovers. Some have been friends or colleagues. But I do not profess to understand them. In fact, the older I become, the more I realize that I don’t really know much about anything, and where men are concerned, I suspect that any woman who thinks she understands them is delusional.

Men are mysterious creatures. I would liken them to dragons or griffins, except that I understand dragons much better than I understand men and griffins were said to mate for life, which makes the comparison to men completely unsuitable. That men are mysterious creatures has become all the more obvious to me as I have navigated the online dating world. Trying to make sense out of them from online photos and profiles, along with message and text exchanges, phone conversations, and dates, has proven challenging. And it is not for lack of trying or lack of accumulated understanding about the way things work in life.

I am lucky to live in a state that attracts and supports people who are active and appreciate the outdoors. I’m one of those people. But the online profiles of Colorado men are heaving with enough vigorous activities to make even a Colorado woman wonder how they bear the weight of them: bicycling, hiking, tennis, running, weightlifting, skiing (snow and water), snowboarding, rock climbing, kayaking, and football among them. Some of the same profiles also refer to less strenuous activities like golfing, motorcycling, fishing, playing pool, and walking.

Let me be clear: Many men are not talking about participating in just one or two of these activities, but profess to be regularly involved in several. And many don’t have much else about themselves in their profiles.

One man I know regularly (as in more than once a week) bicycles, hikes, golfs, and plays tennis, weather permitting. He and other men I know have admitted to taking naps. Does this not tell them something?

I’m a pretty physical person myself. In fact, I have been told that my astrological chart reveals my need to be more than usually active. Apparently, I will blow a few circuits if I don’t expend energy. I work out at the gym for three hours, three times a week, to stay fit. Do I enjoy it? Yes. There is a certain creature pleasure in using and challenging my body. But the fact that it makes the rest of my life more functional and viable is an important part of my commitment to it. It is what time at the gym does for me that keeps me coming back, not the mere heft of the weights, the whirr of the treadmill, the torture-rack-extension of the stretching equipment, or the bullying dare of the innocent looking thing called the mat.

My life outside the gym also gives me plenty of opportunity for physical activity because I don’t hire someone to do the manual labor I can do myself. I get the added benefit of being outdoors when I do yardwork. And yes, I love beauty, including the beauty of flora, so I get a bit carried away with gardening (which is not a passive pastime). I like to hike too, but I prefer having a hiking partner to either hiking by myself or being in a hiking club.

I don’t do any of these things merely to fill time. And I wonder if some of the men whose profiles I am looking at are.

Surely, most of the active men experience the same creature pleasure that accompanies using the body that I do. Surely, they like to be outdoors. Surely, they like what physical activity does for them. Many probably like some competitive aspect of what they are doing. But does the laundry list of physical activities suggest that some of these men are filling time with physical activities because they lack breadth and depth of interest in other things? Or are some of them just doing the online written equivalent of flexing their muscles to attract the female of the species? Is it a testosterone thing?

I admit that I am mystified.

It is true that the profiles of some of the men who have caught my attention have included an interest in the arts, an attraction to kicking back with their woman over a bottle of wine and steaks cooked on the grill, an appreciation for books and movies, or a boast about their ability to fix things. To the extent that there is something other than their sports activities listed in a profile, I hold out hope for an interesting (not just fit) man.

But I am still mystified by how men represent themselves and what it means. Do those men with the long lists of sports activities have room for a woman (beyond merely bedding her) in their lives? Do they want a woman as addicted to sports as them or do they want to partake of the sports with their male buddies and leave the woman to her own devices? If the latter, I refer back to the first question: Do they have time for a woman?

Or is all or most of what is on the profile fantasy and posturing?

And if it is, where does that leave me?

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

 

A Date Orchestrated by the Dead

November 15, 2016

I’m not foolish enough to think that the reason for my seeing a man is always obvious. Beyond human ken or conscious planning, events and meetings are often orchestrated in ways that lead the clueless human to believe that she is the composer and is in control. I know better, and I like to stay loose and aware, open to synchronicity and acquiescent to the hand of guidance.

Ron had only been a widower for a year and a half. That gave me pause, eliciting memories of Derek and how he had not been ready for a new relationship after a similar period of time following his wife’s death. But Ron had reached out to me, and I wanted to be open to the possibilities. He had sold his house and most of his possessions, moved from the East Coast to Colorado, and was ready for new adventures. He appeared to be an active, outdoorsy sort of man.

We met within a couple of days of our initial online contact, and I knew within the first couple of minutes that this was not going to be one of the great romances of our times. He was perhaps 5’8″ and small framed, a slight man. And while I am small myself, slight men seldom appeal to me. I like my men to have some physical substance to them–enough musculature that I know I’m in the presence of the opposite sex. He was a few years younger than me, but he seemed older and somewhat caved in on himself. And his energy field was full of the past. He might have wanted to be ready for new adventures, but I doubted he was.

We chatted over drinks. Not only did I reveal that I blog about my dating experience (something I get out in the open as soon as possible when I meet a man), but I told him that I had spent a year blogging about my late husband’s journey toward death. We had widowhood in common, and he seemed to want to talk about his late wife: their relationship, her illness, her death. He came close to tears a time or two as he talked.

And then an interesting thing happened. His dead wife began to come through to me. I am deeply psychic and yes, dead people sometimes come through when I do psychic readings. And yes, Derek’s wife had communicated with me when he and I were dating, but she had never come through while he was with me and had never asked me to convey a message. She seemed to know that this was not something he could have easily received, at least not from me. But Ron’s wife seemed eager for me to let Ron know that she was there, talking to me.

Fortunately, Ron was not only open to it, he seemed somehow unsurprised, albeit a bit tentative. I asked if he wanted to hear what I was getting. He did. The rest of our conversation was punctuated with comments by Ron’s dead wife whenever she had something to say.

We talked through drinks and dinner. Three and a half hours after meeting, we left the pub. He walked me to my Forester, but made a stop at his SUV, which was parked near mine. He opened the hatch, pulled out a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and presented them to me. Had he simply wanted to avoid embarrassing his date by bringing them into the pub or had he held them until he knew he would actually want to give them to his date? Whatever his motivation for keeping them until that moment, it was a lovely gesture.

I told him that while I did not think we were meant to be romantically involved, I did know that we were meant to meet. He understood. As it turned out, He’d read Suzane Northrop’s book, Everything Happens for a Reason.

I was pretty sure his dead wife had orchestrated our meeting so she could communicate with her husband. And I was happy to be the conduit.

It didn’t contribute to my dating life, but it did contribute to Ron’s peace of mind. That was enough for me. And as I drove home, it occurred to me that Ron’s wife had probably ordered the flowers for me from the other side.

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

Strange Bedfellows

November 8, 2016

When I was divorced and in my thirties, I had numerous male friends. Some of them, including at least one who was married, made it clear that they were available for taking the friendship into the sexual realm. I didn’t take any of them up on the offer. At the same time in my life, I had romantic partners. Most of the time, I was a serial monogamist. One notable exception was a brief period during which I was seeing two men who knew one another because they were on the same soccer team. When they began treating me like something to be competed over, I got the two of them in the same room, told them I didn’t like being treated that way, and threatened to stop seeing them both if they didn’t cease the competitiveness. But I didn’t talk to either of them about the other.

Now, half a lifetime from those experiences, I realized that I could use a male friend to talk to about the odd dating experiences that had recently come out of left field. I could talk to my best friend, Antonio, about pretty much anything, but he wasn’t a good candidate for this particular discussion because he had been married for many years and had no knowledge of the online dating subculture.

Jake knew I had a date two days after our meeting. The day of that date, he sent me a short text. A few days later, he sent another, saying he hoped my week was going well. I texted him back saying that I’d had an odd little thing out of left field happen on Monday. He wanted to know what it was, and I told him it would take too many words to get across in a simple text. In classic Jake style, he asked if I’d had a craving for chocolate . . . or something.

“Or something,” I admitted. It was true that I’d had a craving or two related to him since our meeting. “But that wasn’t the left field thing.”

Two days later, he texted again, asking if there had been any more left field moments. Actually, there had been an odd little incident, though not related to dating. I’d been abruptly awakened from a deep sleep with the thought that I’d left my credit card at the restaurant I’d been to with female friends that evening. I mumbled to myself that I don’t do that sort of thing, but I was so thoroughly awake that I hauled myself out of bed, went down to my office and looked in my billfold, just to confirm that the credit card was there. It wasn’t. I had been awakened by my guides to alert me to that fact. They’d picked a moment when my mind was receptive. I was grateful. Days or weeks might have gone by without my having discovered it because I didn’t use that credit card often.

I admitted that another odd thing had actually happened. Jake wanted to call me to hear about it, but I was waiting for a call from a potential client and couldn’t talk.

Two days after my date with the man I suspected of having some degenerative brain disease, I texted Jake. “I hope that the old superstition that things happen in threes is true because the third out of left field thing happened on Sunday.”  I was hoping that superstition was true because I definitely didn’t need a fourth odd occurrence.

He texted back that his curiosity was killing him. The phone rang before I saw another text saying he would call me in two minutes.

I told him about all three odd, out of left field occurrences. He was friend-like: attentive and supportive. He agreed that I need a man who is my physical and mental equal, and he didn’t seem to simply be looking out for his own interests as he talked about it. He even shared a couple of stories from his own dating experience. He was so sensible and so objective that I found myself wondering if he had simply lost all interest in me as a woman and could therefore retreat into younger brother role completely.

After we hung up, I sent him the link to my blog. I had told him about my blog early on, before friendly banter had morphed into physical demonstration. Now I was giving him a direct link to it. Was I deliberately trying to scare him off? If so, why? Was I afraid I would become too fond of him and wanted to send him packing before that happened? Did I want to see what he was made of, see if he could handle reading about the other men I’d dated?

Actually, my feelings about him were complicated. I liked him. I wanted to spend time with him. But I also cared enough about him to want for him what he wanted for himself. And I knew that wasn’t me. It was a woman closer to his own age, preferably one who was good at the style of dancing he was competitive in. And what I wanted for myself was a man for whom I was first choice, not someone to dally with while waiting for the right woman to come along. Jake and I were definitely strange bedfellows.

This was more complex than mere friendship. It was more complex than a f*** buddy relationship would be. In some respects, it was more complex than a romance would be. I hadn’t just gone down the rabbit hole. I was wandering around Wonderland, full of wonder and clueless about what I was doing.

Was that a good thing or a bad thing?

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

Untenable Men, Part 2

November 4, 2016

I had decided that I couldn’t date a man with incurable cancer. But apart from matters of personality, worldview, age, appearance, and chemistry, I had not yet given much thought to whether anything else was untenable.

Days later, I had a date with another man. This one was a couple of years older than me, and while his photos did not suggest that I would be drawn to his appearance, I knew that photos cannot capture the real essence of a person and was willing to see what I thought of him when we met in person. He looked good on paper. He consulted internationally, had coauthored at least one book, and had published many papers, at least some of them in well-known journals. And those things were verifiable. He was also a horseman and into the arts. There were possibilities with this man. He was smart, fit, and cultured. I doubted any conversation with him would be boring.

We had a couple of long telephone conversations, and we seemed to hit it off. He had season tickets to more than one orchestral group and invited me to have lunch with him and attend a Sunday afternoon performance. After we got settled in at the restaurant, he asked where I was parked. I told him where I had parked, which was exactly where I’d told him I would when we planned our meeting over the phone. He asked what level I was on, and I told him.

We chatted about our lives for half an hour or so. Then he asked again where I was parked. I told him again. We continued to chat about places in the world we’d been. After a time, he asked again what level I was parked on.

Was he an absentminded professor type? Or was he just nervous, though he didn’t seem so? I could not quite figure out the fixation on parking, let alone why he couldn’t seem to remember where I was parked.

I actually had trouble remembering a thing or two myself. In a conversation about Ireland, I couldn’t quite remember the name of a particular city my sisters and I had love in the north-western part of the country, but later recalled that it was Westport, in county Mayo. It had been fourteen or fifteen years since my sisters and I had made that trip, and I hadn’t thought about that city in some time. Later, I couldn’t immediately call forth the name or title of something. Again, it was a bit of information tucked away that I hadn’t thought of for some time.

We shared a car on the drive to the concert venue rather than take both, and during the drive there, he asked where I lived. We had talked about that at sufficient length during one of our phone conversations that I was surprised he would ask. I was all the more surprised that he didn’t seem to recall our having talked about it before. And then he asked where I was parked again. I reminded him of what I had said earlier. He replied, “Between my faulty memory and yours . . .”

My faulty memory? The man was delusional. I assured him that I didn’t typically have memory problems, but it was clear that he knew he did.

And I began to consider the possibility that this intelligent, cultured man had Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

The concert was lovely. Afterwards, we went to a nearby hotel for a drink. I wanted a little more time with the man to discern if I was being just a bit too dramatic in my concerns about his mental state. But by the time we headed back to the parking garage, I could not shake the sense that something was not firing quite as it should be in this erudite and cultured man’s brain. It wasn’t just the inability to remember where I was parked for more than half an hour or the inability to recall where I lived. There were other bits of information that began to coalesce to support my position.

We parted with the possibility of getting together again. He wanted to cook dinner for me at his home in the foothills. It was a lovely offer, and I could not quite believe my own suspicions about him, so I left a bit of an open door. But I wasted not time getting out of there. There was something chilling about the chance that this man had a degenerative brain disease. He was, after all, only a couple of years older than me.

I again entered into a debate with myself on my drive home. For the second time in a week, I was questioning my thinking about a man as I drove home from a date with him. This time, though, the debate in my head was about whether I could possibly be wrong about his mental condition. Wasn’t my experience with him too limited to really have a sense of it?

My intuition told me that I was not wrong. Later, conversations with a couple of people who knew something about degenerative brain disease confirmed that I was probably smart to be concerned.

Did being past the age of sixty in the dating world really mean I was going to find myself dating men who were either physically or mentally untenable? I hoped not.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

 

 

Untenable Men, Part 1

November 1, 2016

At least with Hobson’s choice, the option is to accept what is offered or reject it. With Jake, I didn’t even have the luxury of Hobson’s choice, which itself is anything but ideal. I had no idea if Jake and I could become a couple in any romantic sense, but it didn’t matter because he had been clear that what he was looking for was a woman closer to his own age. There was no choice for me to make. Did he have the intellectual robustness I needed in a man, or real depth and breadth of interests, or the capacity to interact smoothly with my friends? I didn’t know, but it was probably irrelevant because there might not be anything more between us than some delightful text exchanges and that one lovely night.

A date with another younger man had already been scheduled before my evening with Jake, and two evenings after seeing Jake, I found myself sitting across the table with that man. This one was attractive and only seven years younger than me, and that put him in what I had begun to consider the sweet spot for me in terms of age from the standpoints of appropriateness and vitality.

Within the first few minutes of conversation, he told me that his life had changed completely some months earlier. Intrigued, I asked how. He leaned back, looked at me with suspicion, and said, “I don’t know you. I don’t talk about this with everyone.”

“I’m safe to talk to,” I replied.

He relaxed a bit and opened up. “I have multiple myeloma. Bone marrow cancer.”

If he had told me that he spent his time conspiring with aliens to create crop circles, I would not have been more surprised. He was pleasantly lean but not emaciated, and he did not have the pasty complexion of an ill man.

He went on to give me details about his situation. He had been through serious chemotherapy and was in remission, but he understood that his condition was not curable. He saw himself as having been pretty selfish in his life, but the diagnosis of multiple myeloma had changed that. He was renovating his behavior and the way he saw the world.

Late in the meeting, he asked if I wouldn’t like to move from my side of the booth to his so we could sit closer to one another and not be looking across a table. I felt myself melting a bit. The last man who had suggested that was Derek. In fact, Derek had been big on sitting next to one another, whether at a table or a booth, so he could be in closer physical contact with me. I had discovered that I was fond of that approach. More than fond. I was a complete sap about it.

When we left the restaurant, we chatted and laughed on the walk back to our cars, our arms around one another’s waists. “I’m going to walk you to your car. Is that weird?” he asked.

Weird? I was thankful that there were actually men out there who wanted to walk me to my car. I assured him that it was not weird.

Once at the car, he gave me a tiny peck on the lips. Without thinking, I said, “No. Give me a real kiss.”

I meant that I wanted at least the press of flesh. Instead of that, he leaned in and gave me a truly proper kiss: warm, open-mouthed, and sweetly gentle.

Then we parted.

On the drive home, I was in serious debate with myself. I had been through it before. I could not see myself being in relationship with a man who had incurable cancer. I had loved my late husband. The slow walk towards death with him had been an honor. Did I want to do that again? No.

I wondered if that made me superficial. If I were a better woman, would I look past it and be willing to date the man? He seemed a lovely man, after all. Surely, my resistance meant that I was superficial.

No, I told myself. That was crazy. I knew from personal experience what being with someone battling cancer was like. It was not unreasonable of me to not want that experience again.

Maybe the universe was testing me. But what was a passing score? Was it standing up for myself and what I thought might be best for me or was it being willing to stand down and support a man through cancer?

I contemplated the fact that any of the men I had dated could actually have cancer and not know it yet. In fact, one of the men I’d dated had, in fact, had cancer. Another thought that thanks to his DNA, he had a high probability of not just getting cancer, but getting prostate cancer, which was what my husband had died of. If I were in my twenties and dating men my age, health would be less an issue than it was for me in my sixties and dating men past the age of fifty. What did I expect? Of course, it also wasn’t a given that he would actually want to date me. The issue might be moot.

The internal debate carried on all the way home and right up to the time I retired for the night. By the next morning, I knew that I simply couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t date a man currently battling an incurable cancer.

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

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

 

 

Jake

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