Archive for December, 2016

Alone for the Holidays

December 27, 2016

It wasn’t as bad as being alone on an otherwise deserted island, but it wasn’t ideal either. It appeared that I would be alone for the holidays.

Thanksgiving is the most difficult day of the year for me (search for “Cheating Death One More Time,” posted November 18, 2011). Fortunately, my good friends and neighbors, Kathy and Glen Hoff, invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them and their extended family. I had officiated the wedding of their granddaughter Paige, and I’d been to events with the family before, including Thanksgiving the previous year, so it was comfortable and family-like for me. I even went over Thanksgiving morning to help Kathy with food preparation, and I contributed a little food to the event.

I heard from three men that Thanksgiving. The first was my stepson Richard Cornell; the second, my friend John; and the third, Jake. While Richard is the youngest of my late husband’s sons, he’s still only sixteen years younger than me, so not quite young enough to be my son . . . unless I had been very precocious in my youth. But I love him as a son, and it means a great deal to me that he bothers to call me every once in a while. I was sorry I’d missed his call that morning when I was at Kathy Hoff’s house helping with food preparation. I had dated John a couple of times, but no romance developed. Instead, we became friends. He is bright and very active with a mind that likes to penetrate everything using the left brain. I make a good foil for him. Jake had texted me the night before Thanksgiving saying he hoped I had some fun plans. Then we traded a few texts Thanksgiving Day. Considering how careful he was to keep things from getting more than superficially personal, it touched me that he’d texted.

Once Thanksgiving was under my belt, my attention turned to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. For some reason, Christmas isn’t quite as problematic for me as Thanksgiving. Even though Howard had an incident necessitating a call to hospice Christmas night and even though he’d died a few days later, I knew he was close to death on Christmas Day, 2010, and it was time for him to go, so Christmas is a rather benign day for me.

I have fond memories of many a Christmas Eve with my late husband. For many years, we had the Christmas Eve ritual of going out to dinner. Every year, we went to a different place. The most memorable was the Christmas Eve dinner just a month after I moved to Colorado. We dined at the historic Oxford Hotel in Denver. I have no idea what I ate. I was in love; it was a love fest. It was snowing gently when we left the restaurant. We didn’t hurry. It was like being in a Hallmark movie.

I had fond memories of Christmas Day with Howard too. Across many years, I served champagne and little food delicacies as we opened gifts on Christmas morning. Then, after phone calls to and from family, we would get bundled up and head for Rocky Mountain National Park, where we wished the elk a merry Christmas before returning home to Christmas dinner. I had been mostly fine with Christmas since Howard’s death, content to be alone. I didn’t feel that way this year.

Again, fortune was with me. One of my favorite people (who also happens to be one of my apprentices), Lynn Smith, had invited me to Christmas brunch at her house. I was looking forward to spending time with her and the others who would be there.

But as much as I kept myself occupied on Christmas Eve, I was restless. I wanted to create some new rituals and future memories with someone. And New Year’s Eve was shaping up to be another holiday alone too. Why was I bothered about being alone this year when it hadn’t bothered me previously?

Apparently, once Pandora’s Box had been opened with Derek, some interior muscle had been brought back to life. It had little to do with sex (though sex was a wonderful offshoot) but everything to do with relationship. I wanted to love and be loved. I still couldn’t see myself marrying again, and I still couldn’t really see myself living with a man. But I wanted love.

Though not usually petulant, I was feeling sulky and ill-humored, and I didn’t like it. Then I went out to get the mail, and the little boy from next door ran over to wish me a merry Christmas and give me a hug–the same little boy who had brought me flowers from his yard during the summer. I knew that little boy was going to grow up to be a magic man because I no longer felt petulant. I went inside to pack up some soap I’d made that I planned to give to three of my favorite neighbors. And while the boy next door might be growing into his magic, my soap has full-blown magic to it. The scent is of my own creation, a mixture of essential oils. But what makes it magic is the love I consciously insert into it.

When I went to Kathy and Glen Hoff’s house to give them one of the gift bags, they invited me to come over for a little Christmas cheer that evening. Their big extended family would be there, and Andrea, Glenn’s daughter, informed me that there was always at least one straggler. I was happy to be a straggler with that crowd.

When I got back to the house, there were two text messages. One was from Jake. I’d left a message to wish him a happy Christmas Eve earlier. He’d replied. The other was from John. I hadn’t texted him because he was out of the state, spending Christmas with his son. I didn’t want to interrupt that visit. But he had interrupted it himself long enough to text me. I didn’t like admitting to myself that being remembered and contacted mattered so much to me. It was a remnant from half a lifetime earlier when I’d left a thoroughly abusive marriage and attempted to prove to myself just how independent I was. I sighed and let myself accept the fact that being cared for enough to be contacted did mean something to me.

Before the holidays, I’d bought a new dress. I had nothing specific in mind for that dress, but it made my waist look about as small as Scarlett O’Hara’s, it hugged by bosom appealingly, and it’s crinolined underskirt made me feel like a princess. I looked great in it and had hoped I’d find a reason to wear it. It appeared that it would still just be hanging in the closet into the coming year.

melanies-holiday-dress-for-2016

But that fact no longer mattered so much. I’d been reminded that what I really need is to be able to give love to others, whether in the form of magical handmade soap gifted to my friends, my time and attention when a friend wanted it, or my body and full self offered up to a man. And I’d been reminded that I also need to receive love from others, which might come to me as an innocent hug from a magical little boy, an invitation to a holiday gathering, or a text from someone I care about.

I had given and received a bit of love, and I realized that I wasn’t alone for the holidays after all.

 

Note: The names Derek, Jake, and John are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved. The names Richard Cornell, Kathy and Glen Hoff, Andrea, Paige, and Lynn Smith are real, and I am blessed to have these people in my life.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

 

Crimes against the Heart, Part 1

December 20, 2016

In the dating world, there are many ways to commit crimes against the heart–the hearts of others and your own. Some are serious offenses, malfeasance. Others are minor offenses, misdemeanors. But crimes they are.

The concept of friends with benefits is a good example of something fraught with possibilities of doing damage. First, there is no real consensus about what a friends with benefits relationship is, let alone what the difference is between this arrangement and a f*** buddy. Some believe you must be friends before you can have a friends with benefits relationship. Others believe it is foolish to believe there is any friend component to a friends with benefits relationship. There are numerous and diverse “rules” about these relationships, and depending on who is coming up with them, they can be contradictory. In some quarters, it is believed that there should be no cuddling after sex, no sleepover, and no daily texting in a friends with benefits (FWB) relationship. Why? Because it is thought to be a short road between these things and both intimacy and emotional connection. And a friends with benefits relationship for many is, in theory, one that involves sex without the impediment of feelings, let alone deep feelings.

The problem with this is that the human being is a fourfold one with mind, body, spirit, and emotions. The head might be totally on board with the concept of a FWB relationship. The body will definitely be on board. If it is not, there is no point in such an arrangement. But what about spirit and emotions? Can you disconnect mind and body from spirit and emotions? If you can, for how long? And if you can, what does that say about you? If you cannot really disconnect them, what are the consequences of trying to do so?

My own view of what might constitute a FWB relationship was a work in progress. I didn’t necessarily think one had to be long-term friends to have such a relationship. I did think it needed to be between two people who had no expectations of one another, including no expectations of long-term romantic relationship, apart from the expectation of behaving with respect and human dignity. Compassion, kindness, affection? Yes. Bells-and-banjos love? No. Chemistry and sex? Definitely. Friendship or at least friendly connection? Yes.

I had seen Jake twice, and we had over a thousand texts between us. Despite the fact that we had not really known one another beyond a phone conversation and some messages before our relating went from dinner to dessert, I thought of the connection as a friends with benefits one, in part because there was an underlying kindness in his behavior towards me, in part because I gave a damn about him beyond the bedroom, and in part because we had actually conversed about things other than sex. I knew he did not see me as a potential long-term partner. As far as I could tell, some of that hinged on the age difference between us and some of it hinged on the fact that I was not connected to the dance world that was so important to him. Beyond those two things, I had no idea.

Did I view him as a potential long-term partner? No. It wasn’t about age. It was more about lifestyle. I doubted that Jake had the breadth of interests I need in a man. And I doubted he had the depth I need either. But I liked the handful of things I was coming to know about him, I had affection for him, and I had a level of trust in him as a sexual partner. For me, trust in the bedroom is related to what happens outside the bedroom. If I am dismissed, disrespected, or demeaned by a man outside the bedroom, there is no way that man is going to be invited into my bedroom. There will not be enough trust to get him there.

Was a friends with benefits arrangement or something similar sustainable between us for anything beyond the very short term? I knew that some people had sustained such relationships for a matter of years, though I doubted there were many such people.

My heart had cracked open a long time ago, and every time I thought it could not crack open any further, I was proven wrong. The heart, it seems, has an infinite ability to expand. Thus far, I had been able to feel affection and compassion for Jake without any sense of attachment but with a desire for his happiness, whatever that meant to him. I wasn’t concerned about committing a crime against my own heart or his. And I knew that if I began to feel I was at risk of committing such crimes, I would end the relationship.

I wasn’t so sure about Jake, though. I was pretty sure he would drop me like a hot wire if he thought I was getting too attached. And I was pretty sure that he thought he had command over his own emotions, at least where I was concerned. But what about the state of his heart?

Jake professed to want a long-term relationship, and he had what he frequently referred to as parameters for that relationship. It had been a dozen or more years since his divorce;  he’d been single for a long time. From what he had told me about his experience, I knew  he’d formed his own rules around whatever casual sexual relationship he had with a woman. A kiss, a hug, getting naked, and going home afterward were the essential components of it. In his way of thinking, the next time he saw a woman might be the last time, either by his choice or hers. He should not get too close. Which was why, I suspected, he used diminutives when referring to me instead of my name. But he was sufficiently savvy to figure out enough of what a woman’s boundaries and needs were  to stay within her good graces, at least for a time. Still, he was very self-protected. He attempted to keep things completely out of the emotional realm.

The problems with that were three-fold. First, the next time we see anyone in our life might be the last time we see them. Life is fragile. So are human relationships. Any attempt at utter control is futile.

Second, he was not just a nice guy, he was a basically kind person. To the extent that he could keep his heart and his sexual contact with a woman bifurcated, he risked committing a serious crime against his own heart. I did not believe it was in his nature to be hard-hearted. And the longer he tried, the more calcified his heart was going to become.

The third problem was that he had spent enough time attempting to keep emotions out of his sexual relationships that I had serious doubts he could effortlessly turn the emotions back on with a sexual partner he loved and wanted a long-term relationship with. He wasn’t risking a Madonna-whore complex because this wasn’t about a woman he would necessarily have a child with. He was risking something more fundamental: a beloved-whore complex. Would he be able to have abandoned, fun sex with a woman he saw as his beloved after keeping his heart out of the bedroom for so long? I had my doubts.

Jake was at risk of malfeasant crimes against the heart. And if he committed them, he would get a ticket from the karma police he might not want to pay.

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

The Supermoon

December 13, 2016

The supermoon was inspiring. At more than fourteen percent larger in appearance and thirty percent brighter than the average full moon, it mesmerized me as it rose between the neighbor’s tree and house. It hadn’t been this large in appearance since before I was born and wouldn’t be again until November 25, 2034. I did the math. I didn’t want to think about how old I would be in 2034 . . . if I was still alive then.

I texted Jake. “Stop whatever you’re doing and look at the moon.”

I heard nothing back from him, but the supermoon was spanning two nights, so I texted again the next night. “If you missed it last night, you get another shot at seeing the supermoon tonight. Best seen as it rises (shortly after five). Powerful moon influencing feelings, passion, earthly pleasures. (And you just thought it was your testosterone.) Take a deep breath, surrender to it, and imagine the juiciness. As they say, the goddess is alive and magic is afoot.”

He texted back saying that he had actually seen it the previous night while on his way into a dance and jokingly admitted he had, indeed, thought it was his testosterone.

“Men always seem to think that the juice rising within them is all their own testosterone,” I texted back. “We women (the embodiment of the goddess) usually just let you think that.”

He found that funny and said that a thought had crossed his mind about that moon. He was fantasizing an assignation, outdoors at my house while watching the moon. He was graphic about the details of what he had in mind. But . . . he had a lot to do that night. He was busy the following two nights and then would be leaving town for an extended weekend. Still, he wanted to know if we could see the moon from my deck.

The deck was not the place for what he had in mind. Too visible. The gazebo was the place for it.

“Stop talking and get over here, ” I texted back.

But this was the only night he had to do laundry before he left town. If he did come over, it would have to be a very short visit to fulfill the fantasy that was not only in his head (actually, both heads), but now also in mine. He was not even sure he needed to do laundry. He had to check.

“Again, stop talking and get over here,” I texted back.

He left his phone to check on the laundry situation.

While he was doing that, I decided that he was going to lose points, big time, if he tossed me aside for his laundry–or maybe be tossed aside himself. I’m an understanding woman, but there are limits to it.

Ten minutes later, he texted saying that he did have to do laundry, but it might have to be done a little later than he’d planned. Still, he was concerned about whether I was actually okay with him coming and going (so to speak) as quickly as he would need to.

I admitted that I didn’t find it optimal, but also admitted that I wanted him.

He had worked late and had just gotten home before my first text came in. After a quick shower, he would make the drive from his end of the metro area to mine. He texted again as he was leaving with a suggestion about what I might consider wearing, though he admitted that he thought I should wear anything that would keep me comfortably warm. It was November, after all.

I have never needed a man’s help in putting myself together, and I didn’t that night. I was already dressed by then anyway. I thought he would be pleased.

I kept an eye out when enough time had passed for him to make his way across the city, and I was at the front door by the time he got out of his car.

“You . . . look . . . so . . . sexy,” he said in a low, deep voice filled with hunger as he walked toward the house.

The inside door wasn’t even closed before we reached for one another. It had been two months. I was way overdue for the physical presence of him. Whatever the past two months had been like for him, he was totally with me in that moment. My knees nearly buckled. When we finally pulled back long enough for me to close the door, I held up a foot so he could see that downstream from the white bustier and gauzy skirt, I was wearing ankle strap stiletto sandals. My best friend and I had referred to shoes like that as hooker shoes when we were in our early thirties, but one of our friends would have called them find-me-f***-me shoes. Whatever you called them, they seemed like the appropriate footwear for fulfilling the fantasy he had described in his text.

I led him up the stairs, through the house, out through the kitchen door to the upper deck, down the deck stairs, and out to the gazebo. Before he arrived, I’d had the presence of mind to bring out a blanket, just in case we needed it to stave off the cold. I doubted we would need it. Heat was radiating off us.

The moon was as inspiring as it had been the night before. We took the inspiration and ran with it, picking up where we had left off at the front door. In short order, I turned to look at the moon and find purchase on the gazebo railing. The railing was just a little high in relation to my height for what I had in mind, but I struggled to get a foothold. Jake had his own struggles. He was fumbling with his sartorial trappings, as well as his corporeal ones. Behind me, his arms around me and his head close to mine, he murmured, I mumbled, and we ultimately laughed at out ample fervor coupled with our deficient dexterity. In essence, our enthusiasm outstripped our ability to gracefully engage.

Despite the fact that I had quickly abandoned the railing for one of the chairs, I was not a masterful mistress, and he was not quite the adroit master. We were, however, both fearless right up to the moment that he knocked over the iron and marble table. It went down with a decisive, loud thud. I was having too much fun, despite our ineptness–or maybe even because of it–to care. But Jake was concerned about attracting the neighbors’ attention.

We gathered up what we needed to, left the gazebo, and made our way to the house with him in the lead. My skirt got caught on both the heel of my shoe and the railing, and I murmured a little sound of distress. Jake stopped in his tracks.

“Are you hurt? Are you okay?” he asked, his voice carrying a tone of honest concern.

And that small act represented one of the primary reasons (chemistry aside) I was willing to engage in spontaneous, uninhibited, intemperate activities with him despite the fact that we were not candidates for a long-term relationship. There was an underlying vein of caring and kindness to the man.

Once inside, our physical deftness returned. Hands and legs, mouths and torsos, hips and fingers were all back where they belonged, and our muscle memory of their use eventually kicked in. The ankle strap sandals remained on. Later, he accused me of almost growling at one point. It had inspired him as much as the supermoon.

I had been committed to keeping the rendezvous brief because he needed to get back home, but he stayed longer than he’d planned. I’m pretty sure, though, that he had a smile on his face when he did his laundry.

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

Sexting

December 6, 2016

When you have a combination of affection, respect, and lust for a man, but neither your lifestyle nor his allows for seeing one another very often, texting is not a bad alternative to pining away for the guy. Not only is it often faster and easier than either a telephone conversation or an e-mail, it is also more spontaneous.

It began innocently enough about five weeks after Jake came for dinner . . . and dessert. He and I had texted one another sporadically, and I sent him a text asking how life was in his corner of the world, and in particular, how his dating life was going. We were becoming friends, after all. He gave me an update and asked about my dating life. I admitted that while there had been men to date, there had been no one I wanted to kiss in that little notch below the throat since him.

The text back said that I’d just given him a rise. Clearly, the man was easily aroused. And that began a series of texts suggesting how much we’d like to . . . ahem . . .spend more time with one another.

Some days later, I alerted him to the fact that I had published two blog posts (“Jake” and “Jake for Dessert”) about him. He had given me the okay to write about him, but I thought it only fair to warn him when the posts hit. I didn’t think he was reading my blog, but I thought he might want to know when I posted about him. I held my breath after sending the text because I feared he might be annoyed by the true-to-life account of activities he’d participated in.

He did not have the time to read the posts just then, but he did say he liked the title of the second post, proclaimed it accurate to the events, and thought it had been a great dessert. He also liked the fact that I was writing about the two of us.

Was he an exhibitionist?

He began reminiscing about that night and then sent me (with my permission) three photos of himself that served as good visual reminders of our time together without being utterly and completely graphic. That is, there was no unclothed photo of the southern half of his body. Not that he wasn’t willing to send one. I urged him to send no such photos to anyone on the grounds that once they left his hands, he would have no control over them.

I sent him a couple of photos that were tamer than those he sent me. Everything nicely covered. I had never sent sex photos of myself to anyone, nor would I ever. It just does not represent the woman I am. Being unbridled and untamed does not mean that I am willing to document my physical self or my uninhibited behavior in photo or video form. Not happening.

That didn’t mean the photos of him were unwelcome.

Yes, I can refuse to participate in tit for tat (so to speak), unless in person. Unfair? Just taking advantage of my womanly prerogative.

Mostly tame and infrequent texts passed between us for a time. Then I sent him a photo of a holiday dress I had bought. I told him he would have to imagine the woman in the dress. Again, it seemed innocent enough. His text back said that he remembered the woman dressed . . . also. And that led to another series of sexts, on and off over several days. They were apparently working him up into enough of a frenzy that he offered to send me a photo of himself he’d taken in the shower–soapy lather and all–from the neck down.

My nipples immediately stood at attention with the very thought. The woman who has been disdainful of such photos, mostly because men you haven’t known intimately are all too willing to send them, was not only willing but eager to be on the receiving end of that photo. I had been intimate with him. I knew his body. I had affection for it and the man living in it.

Let’s just say that if you have to delay gratification, a photo like that is a good thing to have.

 

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

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall