Archive for January, 2017

Turning Away from Jake and Towards Myself

January 31, 2017

Change was in the air. Like a hot, muggy July night in the Midwest, it had enough weight and substance for me to taste it.

I knew I needed to let go of Jake. I could tick off more than a half dozen reasons for it, but as Lady Gaga had so pointedly said in her song, “Million Reasons,” even when we have plenty of reasons to go, sometimes it only takes one good one to keep us sticking around, whether or not sticking around is a good idea. I had more than one reason to not turn away from Jake: I genuinely liked him; we had fun when we were together and even when we just texted; there was juicy chemistry between us; and we had shared a particular kind of intimacy with a level of abandon and depth that was not easily replicated. I dragged my feet.

When Jake texted me on New Year’s Eve, I thought it a good opportunity to end things. It didn’t take long for the texting to spiral into sexting. I pointed out that the possibility of ever getting together again was slim since I was unwilling to be a last-minute backup plan when what he really wanted to do fell through, and he was unwilling to schedule me in. I expected his reply to admit that it was an untenable situation. Instead, he agreed that scheduling time together was a respectful thing to do.

But it didn’t happen. Texts between us came and went.

Strangely, one night as I was thinking about Jake and reaching for something in my nightstand, a recording my late husband had made many years earlier started to play, spontaneously. The recording accompanied a photo of Howard and me. He had made it before going to Iraq in late 2004 to train cops as an independent contractor. It was his voice reciting a bit of lyrics from the song “You Do Something to Me” in a Transylvanian accent. He knew it made me laugh every time he sounded like Bella Lugosi saying that I had the power to hypnotize him. All these years later, it was tinny but still audible. I kept it in a small cedar box in my nightstand, buried under other things. It was implausible that it could play by itself because it had to be opened and a button had to be pushed for it to play. But play itself it had. I knew that he was sending me a message, but I wasn’t sure what that message was in the moment. It later became clear.

Finally, four months to the day after our first meeting, I sent a text essentially ending the relationship with Jake. In true Jake style, he responded to the message with understanding instead of just blowing me off. That willingness to engage in communication was a part of what I found so endearing about him.

But it was over, and I found myself pensive about it. At the bottom of it, Jake had been unavailable, and that made me think about the many men in my life before him who had been unavailable, beginning with my father.

Does it always come back to a woman’s father? Maybe so. My father’s unavailability was the result of his introverted nature coupled with the psychological and physical detritus from his World War II experiences that nudged him towards alcoholism. I’d been twenty-seven when he died, and I regretted not having his company and his counsel during more of my adult years.

The other unavailable men in my life, from my first husband to those with whom I’d been in relationship before my second marriage, had been unavailable for a handful of reasons. None of them were unavailable by virtue of marriage to someone else. I didn’t like messing with another woman’s man. They had been unavailable because a man cannot be available to you if he is in serious relationship with his own demons, whether psychological or chemical. After breaking up with a man I deeply loved but whose relationship with drugs–primarily marijuana–took precedence over his relationship with me, I had joked that the half-life of my bad relationships was improving because it had been whittled down from more than a decade to a matter of months.

Even my second husband, the man I’d loved for the twenty-five years preceding his death, was seen by his best friend as something of a lone wolf. He had not been the easiest man to live with, but he had opened to me and been available to me more than he had to any other woman in his life, and the marriage worked.

Now, six years after my husband’s death, I was again contemplating my tendency to be with unavailable men. Derek had surely been unavailable. So had Jake. They were examples of something I had discussed many times with apprentices and others with whom I had done shamanic work. As we face, heal, and clear away the remnants of our internal shadow and everything in us that we’ve put in place for purposes of defense (usually subconsciously), we experience something that is not so much like the peeling of an onion as the peeling of an artichoke’s layers. There is nothing left when the onion is fully peeled. In purely esoteric terms, I could argue the validity of that. But in more human terms, what is left when the spikey outer petals of an artichoke are peeled, then the more tender inner petals, and then the hairy choke, which is bitter and inedible? Beneath that is the artichoke heart, which is perfection.

Invariably, before we reach the perfection of the authentic self (which I argued can be approximated but maybe not completely achieved in this life), we undergo many initiations. And usually, when we rather arrogantly think we have it mastered, we reach the mother lode of what must be faced, the internal equivalent of the hairy choke.

But even when we have made it through that initiation, enough energetic remnants of that bitter obstacle remain that we find ourselves cycling around to it again and again, usually at more profound levels each time, and sometimes, if we’re lucky and have done the work, it is just a challenge and test to our mastery.

The issue of unavailable men was up for review one more time.

But this time, I saw it for what it was in Jake–an external representation of something within me that needed facing and working through. And I knew that clearing those energetic remnants was something I was ready to do. Just the acknowledgment of it transformed most of it.

But was I available? My travels with an open heart across the past ten months had tested and refined my availability. I believed I was available.

I was finally ready for a man who not only suited me in many ways, but one who was available. And I was available to meet him and travel openheartedly with him. It had taken my entire life to accomplish, and whether or not that man showed up in this life, I was ready for it.

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

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

Changing My Profile

January 24, 2017

I had four choices when it came to dealing with the problem of scaring off men: do nothing, be even more transparent in my profile than I already was, strip remaining identifying information out of my profile, stop writing about my dating experience in my blog, or, the most extreme choice, give up on online dating.

Albert Einstein’s admonition came to mind: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. I abandoned the notion of doing nothing.

Becoming even more transparent in my profile by fessing up to my blog was appealing because it fit with my commitment to directness, authenticity, and transparency. Before I began writing about my dating experience, I had joked that to write about it might weed out the boys from the men. It had probably done that, but it seemed to be scaring off otherwise perfectly good men too.

The third possibility was stripping identifying information from my profile. I had already made a change to my profile by changing my online moniker. It had been connected with my business name, thereby making it almost effortless to find me quickly. I gave myself a moniker that could not identify me. I had also stripped out some of the references to shamanism because it obfuscated things. The primary identifying words remaining in my profile were writer and editor. It seemed easy enough to eliminate those words, and I reminded myself that close female friends had been urging me to give less information about myself on my profile for some time.

The fourth possibility was to just stop writing about my dating experiences in my blog. Of course, the blog posts I’d already written could still be found unless I took more drastic action, but anyone finding the blog would at least be able to tell, from the date of the latest post about dating, that I had stopped writing about it. I wasn’t ready to give up blogging about dating.

The last possibility was to just abandon the online dating world altogether. It seemed a defeatist approach, but I did want to consider it. I was a member of two paid online dating services. I received endless views and contacts through one of them, but some of those views and contacts were from men out of state and few of the rest were from men I would choose to date. And when I did a search using geographical and age parameters, there was almost no one I found appealing. The other site had a much larger pool of possible partners, but I had less views and contacts from men on that site, and I had enough experience with my messages to men being ignored to tell me that even when I reached out, I wasn’t getting much response. Of course, I had to admit that the problem of my transparency might be impacting that. I wasn’t ready to give up on the idea of online dating, though I was ready to look at what other sites might be better for me when my paid memberships were up.

It seemed that the most sensible approach was to revise my profile, stripping out any identifying information. There were a couple of others things I could do too. When asked my name, I had been telling men that I reserve giving my name until I have a phone or face-to-face meeting with a man. Instead of saying that, I could just as easily give them my middle name. I couldn’t be easily identified from it, and it is a real part of my full name. The other thing I could do was to avoid giving out my cell phone number. A reverse search made me quickly identifiable from that number. I had attempted using a Google number at one point, but that hadn’t worked well. Just holding the phone number in reserve until a meeting seemed the best route. Alternatively, I could give my land line number because, thanks to a quirky issue with how it is listed, I was hard to track down from it. But I would need to screen a man before doing that.

I went to both online sites and not only stripped out identifying information, but also refined my profiles. Then I sat back to see what would happen.

Just changing a profile or adding photos tends to bump a profile up in the page listings on these sites, so I had to take that into account. And I had read the first part of the year always brought an upsurge in online dating activity, so I also had to take that into account. But I not only received a bit of a burst in views, I received new requests for back-and-forth communication and, ultimately, meetings.

One thing I hadn’t changed, though, was my commitment to being up front about my blog once I met a man. When I had done that in the past, few men seemed to be put off by it. Would that still be the case? Or would the sheer number of posts, coupled with the erotic quality of a few of them, scare off any man who left a first meeting with me and did a little blog reading?

There were many unknowns, and I was back to being a dating anthropologist.

 

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

Scaring Off Men

January 17, 2017

There was no question in my mind that I was scaring off men with my blog. I could only guess that was the case with some, such as the architect. And I knew that I had nearly scared off Ned, which I would not have understood if he hadn’t been so open about it.

Thanks to another open (if not fearless) man, I knew I was scaring off others. The first message from him suggested that we meet. We traded a few messages and set a day and time for a drink at a local restaurant. He gave me his cell phone number; I gave him mine. Then, a couple of days later, he sent me a message canceling the rendezvous.

In a moment of curiosity coupled with the belief that I had nothing to lose, I sent a message saying, “What happened? Are you willing to share?”

His reply invoked Greener’s Law. He was referring to a quote the origins of which have been attributed to many but called Greener’s Law because William Greener had once been quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

I had to give him credit for being succinct, and there was something downright funny about his communication. I sent another message explaining what I reveal about my blog to men who actually get to the point of meeting me: I don’t write about every man I date and don’t write about any man who doesn’t want to be written about. When I do write about someone, I change their name and identifying information. And the blog is not in real time. I told him I appreciated his position and wished him the best.

I expected to hear nothing more from him, but he replied saying that my profile, coupled with my first message to him and ninety seconds (presumably of online research), told him everything he needed to know the day after is first message to me. He said that my “tells” were right out there. He had not only read some of my blog posts (including some written about my husband’s journey toward death), he had looked up my book online. In fact, he referred to a section in chapter four of my book and commented that he thought the concept I was presenting was an important one. He was touched by some of my writing. And in his final message to me, he referred to me as a good and talented woman.

Yet, he had been scared off.

The reference to Greener’s Law suggested that he feared if we dated and I became annoyed with him, I might lambast him in my blog. But I suspected it was more than that. The man might not have wanted to know about any of my dating experiences before him, let alone those that involved erotic activity, and he might have been put off by the fact that the blog was publically accessible on the internet.

I hadn’t been immediately drawn to him by virtue of his appearance, but I had been drawn by his profile, and after trading messages with him, it was evident that he was both intelligent and inquisitive. I was sorry he’d been scared off.

When I shared the story with my friend Melisa Pearce over lunch, she thought that he might be a man worth going out with and advocated sending him a message saying that I wanted the chance to be scrutinized by him as thoroughly in person as I’d been scrutinized online. His last message to me had sounded pretty final, and I doubted such an appeal would move him off his position, but I had to admit that Melisa’s approach was a brilliant one. Not only was I intrigued by the man, I wanted a chance to probe him a bit about the impact of my online profile and my blog on the men who saw them.

I sent the message; I heard nothing back.

Another man thoroughly scared off.

How many other men had I scared off? And what, if anything, should I do about it?

 

Note: The name Melisa Pearce is real. She is a valued friend and the founder/owner of Touched by a Horse and creator of the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method.

 

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

The Carrie Bradshaw of Broomfield

January 10, 2017

More than once, my friend Melisa Pearce suggested that I had the Carrie Bradshaw problem: scaring off men with my writing. It prompted me to binge watch (over the course of a week or so) all six seasons of Sex and the City. I didn’t have cable when the show was airing, though I’d seen a number of episodes and later owned entire seasons on DVD. But I hadn’t seen all of the episodes, and it was time to do so.

I have referred to myself as a dating anthropologist, so when Carrie Bradshaw referred to herself using the same language in one of the earliest episodes, I knew the fictional character and I had at least something in common. That wasn’t the only thing. Carrie Bradshaw wrote a newspaper column about sex and dating, and some of those columns were compiled into a book. I’d never written a newspaper column, but I had written magazine columns over the years, though not about dating. Likewise, I’d written a book, but not one that had anything to do with dating, unless you used romancing the next company you want to work for as symbolic of romancing a man. I do, however, have a blog about dating. And I have been encouraged to turn it into a book.

Carrie had a tendency to pose questions about dating and life. Sometimes she did so in question format; at other times in statement format, often beginning with, “I couldn’t help but wonder . . .” I too have a tendency to pose questions about dating and life, though mine are usually rattling around in my head or posed over a glass of wine with a friend instead of ending up in my blog. I tend to write my blog as if I know what I’m talking about, though regular readers can easily see that I am often clueless. So was Carrie.

Granted, Carrie Bradshaw was a whole lot younger than me in that series. But I found it strangely surprising that dating and sex were not all that different for women in their thirties during the Carrie Bradshaw era than women in their sixties in the current era.

Carrie and I also have shoes in common. While not rich enough to own an estimated forty thousand dollars in shoes, as she guessed hers to be worth, and while owning not a single pair of Manolo Blahniks, I do have somewhere over ninety pairs of footwear, which sometimes prompts me to refer to myself as the Imelda Marcos of Broomfield, Colorado.

Apparently, I am also the Carrie Bradshaw of Broomfield, Colorado.

But in watching six seasons of episodes, I could find only two occurrences in which Carrie had scared off men with her writing. Carrie did scare off the politician with whom she had a few dates. But as far as I’m concerned, she was well shed of any man whose career was in politics. Carrie also scared off fellow writer Jack Berger, but not because she wrote about dating and sex. She scared him off because she was a more commercially successful writer than him, which is another problem altogether.

After watching all six seasons, I couldn’t help but wonder (using the Carrieism) how Carrie Bradshaw would fare in the blogging world. The woman had her photo on the side of a bus, accompanied by the statement that she knew about good sex, for god’s sake. If anything could scare off all the right men and attract all the players and perverts, one would think that would do the job. But it hadn’t. Was she charmed? Was I doomed? Had the dating climate changed in the years since the series aired? Was the fact that men these days could find you online in a New York minute a part of the problem?

I wondered what Candace Bushnell would do in my predicament. And I also couldn’t help but wonder what her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, would do in my position.

 

Note: The name Melisa Pearce is real. She’s a friend I count myself lucky to have. Melisa is the founder and owner of Touched by a Horse and the creator of the Equine Gestalt Coaching Method. Carrie Bradshaw is, of course, the famous character created by author Candace Bushnell.

 

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

Crimes against the Heart, Part 2

January 3, 2017

A friend of mine from the gym had not one, but two crimes against the heart committed against him during the holidays. Raz is several years older than me and otherwise not a fit for me as a dating partner, but I have listened to his stories and given him a bit of support because he is relatively naïve when it comes to dating. When he considered shaving his long, scruffy beard, I encouraged him to do so and assured him that he would be a better chick magnet when he did. And he has been.

Like most of us, dating partners have come and gone for Raz. But he had been dating two women he liked for several weeks. Then one of them suddenly stopped communicating with him. Not long after, the second stopped communicating with him, directly following a date. I know Raz well enough to know that he is a sweet man who looked after an ailing wife for a number of years before her death. He’s more than a little old-fashioned, and he would never consciously do anything to offend or harm a woman. That said, I also know that I have only heard part of the story. I don’t know what the women were thinking or what motivated them to cease communication. I trust that they had their reasons.

The problem here is not that they broke it off with him, but that they broke it off by simply ceasing to communicate after several weeks of dating him. They ghosted him, in slang dating terms. They simply disappeared. They didn’t do it early on, when the communication was only at the messaging stage, and they didn’t do it after the first meeting. They did it after numerous dates with the man.

Raz was hurt and confused. When the first woman ghosted him, he was baffled. When the second woman ghosted him, he was annoyed enough to text her about his disappointment. They had talked about the importance of honesty and communication in a relationship, and in his mind, she had violated both.

It goes without saying that catfishers and scammers are committing malfeasant crimes against the heart. But I think these women also did because they broke it off with him in a cowardly and brutal way.

It’s easy to commit lesser crimes against the heart in the online dating world, in part because we are pretty much anonymous online. In fact, rudeness seems rampant in that world. If someone you have never met sends you a message and you don’t reply, no one is likely to send you a hurt e-mail or voice message. You can blow them off with assumed impunity. But when you begin treating other human beings as invisible and irrelevant, it might be a mistake to assume that there are no consequences. At the very least, it is an act of crimes against the heart misfeasance.

I’m not suggesting that we should allow ourselves to be held hostage by someone we’ve never met who keeps sending messages after we’ve given a polite not interested. And I’m not suggesting that every photo like, flirt, wink, or otherwise superficial communication should be responded to. I’m just suggesting that in my universe, the shamanic one, which looks a whole lot like the universe physicists are describing these days, we’re all in this together because at some level, we’re all one. And to the extent that we don’t treat others with dignity and respect, we are, at some level, not treating ourselves with dignity and respect either.

I have sent enough polite, kind replies to messages sent to me by men who are not remotely suitable for me to know that it can be time-consuming and mind-numbing to take the high road. On the other hand, it’s heart-numbing not to.

Are there other ways to commit major and minor crimes against the heart? Of course. Between this post and my earlier one (“Crimes against the Hear, Part 1”) I’ve barely scratched the surface. And I’d love for my readers to weigh in on it.

 

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

 

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall