Archive for November, 2016

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