Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

online dating

Sexual Energy and the Power of #Desire in Men and Women

I have no authority to write this post, and perhaps it will piss some people off, but I’ve been thinking a lot about sexual energy and the power of desire. Let me explain. As human animals, specifically men, we have been told we are programmed by our sexual desire to be in continuous pursuit for a sexual partner. It’s animal, we’re trying to reproduce and ensure the continuation of our genes. And this sexual pursuit is hard-wired into our brain and body. And from what I experience of my own behavior and fantasies this appears to be true. To a point.

I do love looking at women. Men, not so much. And I do enjoy seeing young, fit, attractive women as well. But they are not sexual objects to me. They are not targets for my affection, they are merely beautiful creations to be appreciative of. The same way I admire a Ferrari. I don’t want a Ferrari, and I don’t really want any of the young women sexually, but they are both amazing to look at. Is this the same thing?

What makes “people watching” so fascinating? I think it is the flow of human beauty that we enjoy looking at. Again, we might initially be more drawn to the fertile and nubile of our human tribe, but this gut reaction is not all about sex. And one thing I’ve noticed about myself, even when I’m sexually depleted, having zero sexual energy, I’m still attracted to watching the flow of women passing by. What could that be about? It’s not about passing my seed, unless this is an unconscious drive, and that’s Freud’s assumption. But it is something sexual. I’m not drawn to men in the same way. Still, I find it fascinating, that even when I have no sexual energy or passion, my mind still get’s “up” for a pretty woman.

As it stands, I’m not in the market for a lover. I have two children, so I’m not in need of procreation. And yet, women, the female form, fascinates me. Is the unconscious hard-wiring that strong? It’s as if I can’t look away without effort. And my attention is not only on the youngest and fittest. In fact, most of the young women resonated with thoughts of my daughter and are actually less interesting for that reason. And maybe that’s the crux. “For that reason” does point towards some sort of sexual tension.

And coming from a man’s perspective, I’m curious if women approach people watching from a similar perspective? I’ve read that women don’t feel sexual energy the same way men do, something about testosterone, but I’ve also read that we underestimate the sexual desire in women due to social mores. I can see how a man might be more driven, if you will forgive my pun, for release. And women might be more driven by security and power. But is that just clichéd thinking? Do women view attractive men in a less sexual manner?

I’m sure there is a difference in the chemistry of men’s and women’s bodies. And I’m sure that testosterone has a role in that “drive” towards sexual fulfillment. But I’m curious, for a population in their 40s – 50s, with “families” already established if the sexual drive is more similar in men and women? Do we both enjoy the sexual thoughts that come from people watching? Aren’t we essentially doing the same thing? Asking that tried and true question of our inexperienced, and pre-family youth, “Would ya do them?”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: frame rate, creative commons usage


Beautiful Women and Two Cups of Coffee: How This All Got Started

OFF-titcups
This is how it all started, my marriage to the exy: Easter Sunday, a number of years ago, we ran into each other in the parking lot of a local coffee shop. It’d been 15 years since I’d seen her. She looked good, but then after what I’d been through, almost any woman looked good. But she looked exceptionally good.

I reached out my hand to say, “Hi.”

She reached out her arms for a hug.

Turns out we were both recently through our first marriages. Mine of 7 years, hers of 7 months. Maybe that should’ve been a warning flag, but it wasn’t.

She left a scent of perfume on my neck.

From then on, if the person didn’t have something extraordinary going on, some really amazing trait, or some smashingly witty banter in her messaging, I wasn’t interested.

I wasn’t aware of it’s affect on me until an hour or so later when I could still smell her. (To be honest, I’m not a huge perfume fan, but something else was at work here.) It was as if the hug, the smiles, the quick conversation, her easy laugh, “Yes, divorced here too.” The moment and the perfume had drugged me. I was in a daze.

What I realize, now, having had the perfuming experience more recently with old ladies, my mom, even my daughter, was that the sense of smell is a powerful trigger for me. And what it triggered so deeply that Easter morning so many years ago was the loss of that womanly smell in my life.

When my first divorce was final and I finally got back into my condo, there were still remnants of my first wife on the walls, in the drawers. But the part that I really missed, the place that I really noticed the lack, was in the bathroom. I no longer walked into steamy, sweet-smelling rooms with a uber sexy little basque woman in them. And just the smell, the loss of that smell, was huge. I did not know this when my old high school friend hugged me that Easter morning.

I had no idea that my synapses and hormones had taken over from the olfactory triggers. I wanted her throughout the entire day, like I had never wanted anyone before. Of course the hole in my heart and soul was huge, I also didn’t know this. And the newly triggered trance-like desire would blind me to so many of the signs that could’ve avoided the ultimate train wreck of style differences.

That, of course, would’ve been a different life. I would not have the amazing kids I now have. And UG, I would not be who I am at this very moment.

BEAUTIFUL is GREAT. BUT BEAUTIFUL lasts for a limited amount of time.

A little tip I now understand. Small scented candles (the organic kind for me, thanks) and other scented things like groovy Method foaming hand soaps, and great Aveda shampoos, can go a long way towards elevating my sense of erotic smell. And when I accidentally get the scent of a woman on me, and I notice it’s starting to have the drowsing effect on me, I can retreat to my OWN shower, and get my OWN clove shampoo, and take off the infected shirt.

On Easter 14+ years ago, that wonderful woman had a spell on me. She cast it without knowing, and I was pierced in my own loss and pain without being aware of anything but the electric connection between me and this old flame. Sure, when she told me later, over lunch, that she’d had a crush on me in high school I was touched. But the virus of her touch, her scent, that one morning, did more to alter the course of my life then I could’ve ever imagined.

I guard against some of that now with my own scented regimen. I’m not going to be drugged and dragged down into the cougar’s lair just yet. And when I do want to be devoured, I can inhale and relax into the fall with intention. I am ready to be drugged again, but this time, after we’ve gone through a few cycles of the relationship first. Intoxication is great. But then you have to get on with the mundane of living shortly there after.

It’s kind of like the beautiful woman I was sitting across from a few months ago. We’d exchanged some message via OK Cupid. And there was no question this was a woman in charge and in radiant glow. She was breath-taking from the moment she walked in Panera Bread.

And she smelled great.

Please come at me with a real imagination and things you are excited about besides cardio and American Idol.

Almost as quickly as she opened her mouth and spoke, the spell was broken. There were exactly 3 things this woman was ready to converse about. Working out. TV. And her job as an executive assistant.

As I jumped from topic to topic to try and find something more relevant to my life, I found nothing. She had made it kind of difficult to set up the first face-2-face with the declaration, “I work out every evening after work.”

I thought, “Um, okay, good for you. Do you want to find a time that DOES work?”

I walked away from that coffee with a new understanding of myself, online dating, and what I was interested in. From then on, if the person didn’t have something extraordinary going on, some really amazing trait, or some smashingly witty banter in her messaging, I wasn’t interested. BEAUTIFUL is GREAT. BUT BEAUTIFUL lasts for a limited amount of time. Work out all you want, you’re going to grow older and older. I think you are beautiful in all your forms, woman. And in some of your scents as well.

But please come at me with a real imagination and things you are excited about besides cardio and American Idol. And for me personally, if you’re wearing a lot of perfume, lean towards the essential oil types and away from the ones at Nordstrom. Thanks.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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You Should Go For What Makes You Happy (Divorce Me)

OFF-greenergrass

Have we made it too easy and convenient to get divorced?

I know that sounds rather absurd, after all the pissing and moaning I’ve done around my divorce. But some how, my ex-y decided it would be easier, more to her advantage, more joyful to go seeking a relationship with someone else. So she decided, well before I was aware we were in negotiations, that she would check with a lawyer to discuss options. Or more bluntly, what she could get.

And so we divorced. I was not happy about it. And though I swear I’m moving on, I don’t guess I will ever fully be OVER it. I mean, what am I doing tonight? Seeing if a date is going to materialize through the txts and emails I’m exchanging with someone from Match.com. And I’d rather be hanging with my kids: chatting about their day, their projects, their hopes and dreams. Much like the past five days of this dad-weekend.

In relationship therapy she didn’t answer the question, “When did you exit the relationship?”

The ex-y on the other hand, seemed to move on rather quickly into a couple relationships that seemed a bit more like reactions, or rebounds, or “wouldn’t this be thrilling,” rather than Relationships. (capital R added for emphasis) Okay, but I’m not here to judge.

But something a “friend” of hers said today, brought a bit of a different perspective on things. What if my ex-y’s DIVORCE gave permission for this “friend’s” divorce. Heck, I didn’t even know she was divorced as my daughter is best friends with her daughter, and seems to think they are still married. (Odd. I wonder what they’ve told their kids?)

Either way, there is something about the permissiveness of divorce these days. Perhaps greener pastures are enough of a reason today. Perhaps the THRILL of something new is reason enough to wander, to flirt, to “have lunch” with someone of the opposite sex. Or if you want to get really thrilling, how about the same sex?

So this friend mentioned how horrible I had been to my ex-y with my blog. She was telling me why or how I lost her and her (now ex) husband in the mix.

Hmm. Her point is well taken. And something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about while writing and publishing The Off Parent.

  1. I started this “process” in the heat of the divorce. It was my way of recording and vocalizing my anger.
  2. Anonymous is only so effective.
  3. When asked in the summer of 2010 to take The Off Parent offline, by my soon to be officially ex-wife, I didn’t fight back. I was depressed. I was deep in the anger and sadness of the whole mess. I took the blog down without question. And I apologized.
  4. A year later when I turned The Off Parent on again, it was from a different place. This process [of divorce and recovery from divorce] was bigger than my ex-y and bigger than my anger and advice. I learned that I was still living the experience. And that the experience of divorce never ends.
  5. The process has now devolved into all kinds of interesting topics of self-revelation: 1. depression; 2. online dating; 3. self-improvement.

And as I evolve this narrative and journal I hope it is clearer that this is not about the ex-y.

But, let’s come back to that in a minute.

When given a choice to try something  new and “exciting” my ex-y chose to exit the relationship for what might make her happy. (Or maybe at this point, for her, it was *less angry.*) It reminds me of the two times I actually feared for my relationship.

She had a working buddy who became a pen pal. I stumbled onto an email thread between her and a coworker that was all about me, my depression and how unhappy she was. Turns out she’d gone to several lunches with him. And the thread was one of several that went WAY DEEP into our relationship. Add to that, he was attractive to her, she had mentioned him in several passing conversations.

So maybe he was the first infidelity. It was only emails, phone calls and lunch. But it was all done on the down low. Just checking out things. But if it was innocent and honest, why hide it? The several times during our marriage, for example, when my first ex-wife called with some reason we needed to have coffee, I would talk to my then-wife about it.

[Um, this is how the ex-y and I got started. She was WITH someone when we ran into each other again. We went to a few lunches. It was just lunch, right?]

Fuck. That didn’t feel good. I flipped. She apologized. She agreed that she had crossed the boundaries. But in couple’s therapy she never answered the question, “When did you exit the relationship?” Perhaps it was too soon to admit it to herself.

The second time I felt a tectonic shift, very different, was at a titty bar. We were there joking about bringing home the young girl with us. We’d always joked that it was fine to have another woman, as long as she (the ex-y) was there. It was a running joke, as if she had lesbian fantasies and of course I did. I mean, you know…

So was it too easy for her to set her sights on that new goal, male or female, and then make her calculated and spreadsheeted plans to get there?

Funny thing… However, when the young thing, a bit rough around the edges and smelling of cigarette smoke, was assigned to give the ex-y a lap dance… Well, all kinds of things broke loose. I guess I recalled how easily she revealed private issues with her pen pal, I felt a flash of fear, watching her really enjoying the affections of this pretty little siren, that she could just as easily leave me for a girl as leave me for another man. The point was, things were unstable, and I didn’t want to consider her leaving me for any reason. We never tried that little experiment again.

Chances are she was already in the process of leaving, separating.

And all it would take was that last offer, opportunity, greener pasture, to launch her into a new trajectory. A path away from me and the family we’d created.

So was it too easy for her to set her sights on that new goal, male or female, and then make her calculated and spreadsheeted plans to get there? That’s kind of how her mind works. Still. Spreadsheet first, emotions later, if at all. It’s okay, it’s just very different from what I needed. And, as I understand from writing here, very different from what I truly think I need. I need warmth and emotion. I need a partner who takes an equal part in generating the joy and warm emotions in the relationship. I need someone who adores me, and who I adore back.

I know it’s coming. And more clearly now, than when I started this rant. I think through this process I am growing, redefining, and exploring what went wrong and what I want to get right next time.

And for now, I’m alone tonight because of a choice she made. I’d rather be with my kids. But ultimately I’d rather be with someone who loves me back with honesty and love language I understand. For her too, I hope her multi-year boyfriend materializes for her into something that makes her happier. The kids will benefit from joy all around.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: i am blank and out of focus, sofia minetto, creative commons usage


Dating Time Out: Swiping Left or Right is Wearing Me Out

OFF-glider

I’m done with the online forum for a minute. I’m back to rebuild, remodel, retool mode. I think I’ll even take my profiles down for a bit. I had a non-online date become a non-date via email yesterday and I sort of bummed me out. Not that she was an amazing fit, or that sparks were flying all around between us, no, it’s more the idea of dating that’s wearing me out.

I’ve got a new fitness program, that I’m committing to. I’ve got my next musical performance in early Dec. And plenty of kid duties and work duties between now and then. I think I’ll take them down and focus back on the project of building, becoming, and enjoying a better me. The “she” will have to follow.

I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself.

Would I date me, at the moment? I’m not sure. If I take the example from this week as a sample, I’d say yes, I would. The woman was within range on certain qualities, she was vibrant, engaging, intelligent. And on others (touchy-feely, love language understanding, physical closeness) she hadn’t shown any indications how these things might come into play. And that’s where I knew we had a sticking point.

I know the woman I want to be with will light up when were together. In the same way I light up and cheer at the sight of a new potential lover, the same way I still light up ever so slightly when I see one of my two previous girlfriends. I’m a “happy to see you” kind of person. I don’t need subtle, or introverted, or quiet. I can be quiet. I can enjoy quiet. But a lack of joy comes across to me like a dull color. I need shine and dancing.

I generate a lot of energy and joy in the world. And I’m clear that I tend to blow people off their center, especially if there center is not very well established. I will require a strong partner. Both previous marriages broke down in some ways as a response to my over-abundance of energy and creative drive. It became a competition thing. I didn’t think I was competing, but some how the woman, both of my previous wives, did.

So I get that. I temper a bit when I’m meeting new people. I keep most of my peacock feathers tucked beneath my non-logo t-shirt. And still, I’m often the person who interrupts, jumps from subject to subject, and if I’m zoned or in a highly productive day, I might miss the person completely. Or I might miss a moment, when I should’ve been quiet rather than engaged. When I should’ve had a non-response, rather than a delighted one. This last woman didn’t seem to be able to keep pace. More likely, she didn’t want to.

Again, that’s OH KAY. Really. I hear myself explaining my own type-a, driven, goal setting, personality. But I’m not apologizing for it. I’m merely saying, this is the way I am. I hope you can keep up, and I’d really like it if you came on the ride.

Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Heading into November, my birthday month, I’ve got no one to cuddle up with. No problem. Not the way I’d want things, but there is a LOT of stuff that’s not the way I’d choose it to be, at the moment. Still, I’m not unhappy about my withdrawal from online dating. It’s more of a refocus, again, back on myself and my empire building.

I have many rooms in my house. I am remodeling some. Others I have down, but I prefer to spend less and less time in them. While over here, in the writing and relationship wing, I am constructing an entirely new atrium. I’m done with settling for almost in an online profile. I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself. Each of the projects I am working on requires a certain amount of energy. The date this week was an opening of possibility. As she closed that door, I’m taking the message from the universe (too woo woo, again?) and getting back to my own basics.

Become who I would like to be with. Show my highest form of passion and creativity. Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Switching to glide for a bit.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: Hang gliding over Makapuu Beach, peddhapati, creative commons usage

They’re begging me not to cancel my Match.com account.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.11 PM

But when I do, I get a nice message. Almost like an answer. 11/27/2014 will be my 52nd birthday. Gracias Match.com!

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And finally, the Tinder…

tinderdone


Tinder Matches: Is Swiping the New Evolution?

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A swipe right for YES and a swipe left for NOPE. This tiny superficial action is the basis for the new dating app Tinder. (I know it’s not *that* new, but it’s new for us over-40s.) And there’s even the, “Oops, she was hot and I swiped the wrong way.” No remedy for that. You’ve got one shot at them. If you fail-swipe they are either gone for ever, or temporarily in your YES column. (Those you can easily un-match.) There is no un-do.

The dating odds are only improved by upping your numbers. Tinder is one simple way to do that.

If you can get the little beast running on your phone, you’re in for some fun. A sort of fun, until the novelty wears off, and it does wear off. There are only three kinds of filtering in Tinder: 1. age-range; 2. geographic proximity; 3. male or female. And from there you are on your own. Jump into a new part of town, check Tinder. Fly to a new city for business, checkTinder. Want a mid-day jolt of dopamine, check Tinder.

But the success at then taking a “match” to an in-person date is a bit more of a trick. There’s simply not much to go on from their Tinder profile. If that’s okay with you, jump in and see what you find. See if Tinder is your gateway beyond the Match.coms and OK Cupids. My milage has varied tremendously.

You have very few clues before you reach out and contact a “match” on Tinder.

  • They’ve swiped you YES (unless it was an accident) and therefore your photos appear to be within their “desirable” range
  • A few photos can give you “some” indication of what they look like (but pictures are easy to manipulate and might be YEARS old)
  • They might have a short bio
  • You can see a few of their mutual Facebook interests
  • You can see how many Facebook connections you have

And it’s this last one that could provide a keyhole into a deeper examination of this “potential.” See, I don’t want to waste a lot of time on near-misses, and I want to spend zero time on “nah” matches. So a little sleuthing can help me determine if there’s any extraordinary in the Tinder match before I reach out to begin the flirtation and logistics portion of the process.

If you want to get a closer look at your Tinder match you can cruise the “mutual friends” section of Tinder and look for someone you know. The better you know them the more likely it will be that you can get insider info on this person. Of course the first step is to find them in the “friends” tab of your friend on Facebook. And since Tinder uses real first names, you’ll probably be able to find your Tinder target pretty easily. And if they have a public Facebook profile, Boom, you’ve got more information than anyone would share on a dating site. What are they into? What does today’s selfie look like? What kind of updates do they post about their interests or themselves?

That’s the beauty of Tinder: it is 100% photo-driven. Either you are a YES or a NOPE to someone.

And digging a little deeper (you can actually do this on ANY dating site) you can take their photos (even a screen grab from Tinder works) and run them through Google’s image search. If there’s a photo that they also shared on LinkedIn or Instagram, DING, you’ve got another source of info about this potential. It might seem like stalking, but if you think people aren’t doing this, umm… maybe you should get off the net. Google spiders everything and if you’ve posted a photo somewhere, and then used that same photo on your dating profile, um… well, you need to be informed that this is happening.

PERSONAL DATING DATA: Go try it on your dating profile pics. Pick one and go to Google.com. Then click on the Images tab and you will see an area you can drag your photo onto and Google will do the rest. You might be surprised, or you might WANT people to find out more about you.  If you’re photos are too revealing, you might select other ones to use on your Tinder profile.

Anyway, we’ve come full circle now back to purely physical attraction as an indicator of potential chemistry. It’s an easy place to start. And that’s the beauty of Tinder: it is 100% photo-driven. Either you are a YES or a NOPE to someone. And perhaps that’s as good an indication (even if wildy superficial) as any of your potential match with someone. A friend was giving me a hard time about online dating, a number of months ago. She was saying how she had never tried it and thought it was demeaning and awful that I would judge someone purely on their photos.

“You might be missing a really great women. The perfect woman for you, in fact. Because you’re so stuck on the superficial appearances.”

“You are right. However, it’s a numbers game,” I told her. “If you have a better suggestion of how to filter down 1,823 potential matches into a few that I can manage, I’d be open to your suggestions. “Curb appeal” is the quickest filter I know, just like in real estate. If you don’t like the way the house looks from the street, you’re not going to be all that happy about living there.

Get it or not, Tinder is booming. And my experience with two actual in-person meetings was surprisingly good. One hit and one miss. Unfortunately the hit turned into a false positive, but that’s also part of the game. You need a lot of potentials to find the next YES. I mean the real yes. The next relationship. I’ve been at it for over two years and the odds are only improved by upping your numbers. Tinder is one simple way to do that.

From there, I take my time before meeting someone. I want to learn more before wasting an evening on small talk with a big NO. And in my new learnings I think a phone call is mandatory. I want to hear her voice and imagine her before I meet her in-person, and that requires a bit more than a photo and bio, for me.

Get your Tinder, Match, or OK Cupid on, and get on with getting it on.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: tinder costume, nathan rupert, creative commons usage (this may be the costume for me, if I had a halloween party)


Reversing the Flow: Putting Women in Charge of Courtship

OFF-coffeedate

What if we didn’t behave like male animals? What if we truly gave the woman the lead. Sure, we’d smile, flirt, and cajole. But what if we left it at that? Didn’t make the proposition. Didn’t pursue. And what if, then, the activated woman actually came in our direction. Don’t you think, if SHE was interested, I mean, really interested, she’d let you know?

[Note: I’m not saying the idea is to make the woman do all the work in exploring or setting up a relationship. I am saying, as a man it is difficult for me to let the woman make the first move in expressing an interest. If I relax a bit, and quit hitting on women, maybe we will treat each other differently from the start. Establish our chemistry on a mutual level, rather than something concocted by my revved up hunter.]

Okay, since coming up with this idea a few days ago I’m amazed at what it has changed in my approach towards women. Here’s what I noticed.

  1. By giving every woman the free pass from my amorous attention I have noticed that my interactions are easier and less focused.
  2. There are a lot fewer distractions in my day when I’m not scanning for “women with potential.”
  3. The flow of a conversation is much cleaner when I’m not suggesting or flirting in any way.
  4. I really want a woman who wants me. I have to let her get there. And I have to become the “someone” she would want. (that’s my job)

We can get too intense. Perhaps, men are *often* too intense, as in all the time. If we dial back the focus a bit, and put the attention on the woman, separate from her sexual being, we can begin to lighten up. It’s easy for me with women in their twenties and younger, but women of my own age or in their 30’s or 40’s it takes a change in my mindset. Playing with this idea recently I was talking to a woman on the tennis court yesterday.

I’m alone. Fine. I’m retooling. I’m in a progression of rebuilding a number of things in my life that are (at this moment) more important than a relationship.

She was in her late thirties and quite fit. She was a happy and aggressive tennis player, and I enjoyed watching her hit the ball. As we were on a break from the cardio workout, I noticed she was wearing a Marshall Amplifiers gimme cap. I asked her, “So are you a rock girl?” And what I noticed was my attention was on her answer and not on the idea that this might form an opening for a proposition. She talked about her “previous time in bands” and the asked, “What kind of guitar do you play?” And we were IN. Except I wasn’t interested, or I was clearly deflecting any suggestive feelings, and we talked guitars for a bit. And we played some tennis.

Later I asked her if she had heard a friend of mine, “another local rock girl who played a mean Les Paul.” She hadn’t. And that was it. That was the cool part, there was nothing I wanted from her. It was if I had just flipped a switch and put my dick back in my pants and just had a conversation with a pretty, strong, and young woman who was playing tennis at the same time I was.

I think often we (as men) are driven a bit to hard to find the relationship. I know I am. And I know at this moment, several months out from having any kind of intimate relationship, that I’m a bit more hungry than usual. I would normally have a tendency towards hunting and tracking. But in this case, I was able to *just let her be.* It sounds like a simple thing. But it’s really the change of mind that has allowed me to just CHILL THE F OUT.

I’m alone. Fine. I’m retooling. I’m in a progression of rebuilding a number of things in my life that are (at this moment) more important than a relationship. When I’m in hunter mode I don’t see things as clearly. I can see how, a week ago my conversation with this same woman had a bit of the hunt in it. (POEM LINK) And this week, I felt happier around her, and happy to admire her without any intentions towards dating her.

I was happy with my neutral approach. And a few hours later I had another wakeup moment in this same realm. I was doing some work with a company and needed to get together with one of their staff, who happened to be a recent graduate. We made plans to meet at a coffee shop in the afternoon. And as I was examining my own “chill” mode she sent me a message that put a whole different chill on my hunter imagination.

“I’ve got epilepsy and I don’t drive.”

Boom.

What a powerful moment. What I got from my inner compass was something like this…

  • setting up business date with a cute young woman
  • obviously not a date-type coffee, she was very young
  • resetting my own “hungry hunter” mode back to “chill”
  • she put my heart in my hands with her comment, so matter-of-fact: I’m cute, young, and damaged, and still SO CHEERFUL.

What I got was my own natural tendency to assess the situation on many levels. And in this moment of self-regulation she delivered the coupe de grace, with a smile. She was a beautifully damaged woman. Something else came to mind, from my experience with friends who have a chronic illness. I said it out loud, “She is not her disease.”

I’m hungry, but I’m interested in a woman who stays YES first. THEN I will show her my Tiger.

And to take my own vulnerability to the next level, “She is not a target.” She is not a “potential.” And not because she was disabled, but just for the reason that I’m pulling back my hunter focus. I’m giving the controls back to the woman. And thinking I was enlightened, or at least in a mode of evolving, she showed me how much further I had to go. Would she be attractive to me if she had not had an illness? No. But her beauty and vibrancy was palpable and poignant.

When we met she was an amazingly positive and bright young woman. I related a few stories to her about my daughter. And I could see how that’s more the relationship I could see between us. She wanted to learn some of the digital marketing craft from me. I had nothing but a desire to help and encourage her.

Conclusion: I don’t know where I’m going with this, exactly. I know that I’m dialing back the hunter-focus and paying more attention to women as people and not as “potentials.” Of course do this normally, but consciously setting the OFF switch I’m thinking that I will hear and related to women better. And the full reveal is this: I want a woman who WANTS me. I’m often too busy wanting her. Or wanting to make myself someone she’d fall in love with. I’m just me. I’m working on me. And I’m a pretty conscious male. But I can be even more intentional in all of my relationships with women. Let’s start there. If SHE wants to let me know about her desire, cool, other wise I will assume it’s a NO, and we’re not in a “potential” situation.

And maybe this is what women feel all the time. The men are sizing them up as they might size up a meal. I’m hungry, but I’m interested in a woman who stays YES first. THEN I will show her my Tiger.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

I had a momentary thought: Boy I’m sure gonna regret this idea a year from now when I’m still waiting for a woman to make the first move. (grin)

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image: coffee date, waiting, rachel sarai, creative commons usage


Tinder Dating is New and Fun and Lacking Most Filters

OFF-tindergirl

Okay, so we’re all getting in on the game of Tinder. (see: She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”) But it’s more game than dating, in my experience. Swiping left or right might be a bad metaphor for relationships. If your response and requirements are so superficial, perhaps you are looking for something different than I am.

Online dating is hard enough. With most online dating sites you get photos and a few words to determine if the person is a potential fit. LESSON #1: 99% of them are not.

Okay, so what do we have to go on with Tinder?

  • Photos
  • Pseudo-anonymity
  • Number of mutual friends on FB (um, if you haven’t figured this out yet, you can easily FIND the actual person on FB once you have a picture and mutual friend, duh!)
  • Some FB similarities
  • Filtered only by proximity and age-range
  • A “am I hot or not” swipe system for saying YES or NOPE.

There is very little about Tinder that is really new. But it’s the new thing. The idea of it being a hookup tool for younger users, might be true, but as us older folks jump on, we’re looking for a new “dating app.” And if less is more then Tinder might be for you.

I have to admit, I was encouraged by my first Tinder experience. I mean, wow. The first MATCH ever followed through within a day and we were kissing on the first date. Wow.

Here is how my impression of Tinder has changed over time.

A. My initial impression before I got a Match. “Um, yeah this is good for the hookup kids.”

B. My impression after my first YES and eventual MEH: “Hot damn, maybe there are more just like her.”

C. My impression now after date #2 and #3: “Yeah, it’s worse than Match.com. I’ve got nothing more than a photo. And the superficial selection process is somewhat demeaning.”

And yet… After all that, Tinder has something going for it. Simplicity. There’s something sort of thrilling at opening up the app and seeing the little concentric circles going radiating out from your picture, “Finding people nearby.” But of course, that promise is quickly brought back to reality. The women in my sphere are not looking for a hookup, as the “nearby” might suggest. And that’s fine, that’s not really what I’m after either.

tinder-screenSo I keep coming back, I keep opening the app and watching the little circles do their magic, like some magical searching mechanism, that I keep encouraging, “Find me the girl, Tinder. Find her now!”

But once you’ve gotten over the initial rush, and I have to admit my first experience *was* extraordinary, you’ve got a dating app, with *much less* information than you have on other sites. The newness of the swipe grows old as the app opens up to “everyone” within your radius. Once you get going (I think Tinder rewards frequent check-ins) the blur of Tinder-ites becomes more of a tedium than a thrill.

You’ve got the same problems as any other online dating site, but you have less information. My second Tinder date was an amazing looker in her pictures, and when she arrived at our coffee date, disclaiming that she was “coming directly from the horse barn,” it was as if she were trying to look unattractive. I couldn’t make the connection between who I was seeing and who I had swiped right. And my third Tinder date was just… boring. Zero connection. Zero game. I guess I should’ve taken notice of how quickly she wanted to meet without any banter.

Banter is good. Banter and the art of the selfie, may be the two sharpest indicators of a match for me. If she’s got no verbal game I’m done. If her pictures are glam shots (I’m swiping left anyway) or don’t match up with who shows up, I’m gone. With Tinder, you’ve got very few indicators of who you might be setting up to enjoy or waste time with.

I’m really done with the boring “hello” date. My criteria for a face-to-face meeting these days is “amazing.” If she’s not got some quality or fantastic attractant I’m not going to follow-up. I’ve got over 2,000 “hidden” women profiles on Match. That’s a lot of filtering. If I had to swipe 2,000 women to the left, my finger is going to get tired real quick. Tinder, check it out, but don’t be surprised to see a lot of the same faces from Match or OK Cupid.

Perhaps Tinder’s real winning application is travel. If you’re heading into town for a music festival, for example, and you’d like to meet someone for drinks, Tinder might be your winner app. It’s easy to open when you hit the ground. You are likely to see a lot of potentials in your proximity. And if that’s what you’re looking for, who knows, perhaps adults are hooking up on Tinder as much as the kids are. I’ve not travelled with Tinder yet, but I think it might be a neat experiment.

In the end the simplicity is the pro and con of Tinder. It’s easy and sorta-fun to open the app and see who shows up. It’s a little hit of “maybe” dopamine. But the thrill quickly wears off after you’ve been swiping for a while without any YESes. And sad when you get no matches at all. Maybe #4 is going to be a hit for me. That’s always the thought with online dating sites, “maybe she’s out there NOW,” I’d better go check.

Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: almost every girl on tinder, post memes, creative commons usage


Mis-Match in Online Dating: A 10-point Overview of Match.com

OFF-matchdotcom

I say it all the time, I’m not much into dating. I’d rather have a relationship. The idea of a new woman *is* exciting, however the steps to uncover and develop a relationship are much longer and (I won’t say laborious) tedious. Last week I was on a Match.com date and I was wondering how I ended up at the table with this woman. She was no match. And if I had looked a bit deeper into her photographs instead of wishing into them I would’ve avoided an hour of … uncomfortable conversation.

So I’m going to examine what Match.com has got going for it, and what parts of the process and site are unproductive, for me. Again, please note my current bias away from dating. And even with that bias, dating is the only way back to a relationship, if that’s what I ultimately want. So here we go.

I don’t check-in to Match.com on a regular basis. I’m in a self-seeking phase at the moment. I do still have the app on my phone and when someone signals that they are interested in me I get a little red dot on my phone and a message on the lock screen. “Someone sent you a wink.” My immediate reaction is always a sarcastic, “Oh boy!”

Let’s open up Match and look around for a minute.

match-mainscreen

I have periods of high activity on my end. I jump on, search for attractive and left leaning women and send them a “hello.” My ratio at this moment is 51 sent vs. 9 received. But that’s okay. We aspire, we connect based on very shallow preferences, and we see what happens. My profile seems to be getting plenty of views. 4 new views since the last time I checked in. And I’ve had some emails and conversations going between myself and several women. All good “activity.”

But the activity doesn’t necessarily mean matches. And my actual success ratio with actual dates via Match.com is about 51 dates to 1 relationship. Now, to be fair, that relationship is the first one post-divorce that changed my entire approach and perspective on what I was looking for, but… the numbers are not in our favor. That’s what you should understand early on. Dating is a numbers game. View a lot of profiles, put some interesting enticements in the water, and if you get a bite or two try and take it to the next step, the “hello” date. But there’s a lot of unproductive dates and wasted time spent trying to sift through the BS and uncover the winners. And if she is too much of a winner, she won’t have the time of day for you as a man. A recent date said she gets between 10 and 15 propositions a day. I get 1 or 2 a week. The ritual still falls along traditional lines: men pursue, women accept or reject our offers.

So let’s get some information about the women who “viewed me.”

match-viewedme

And while one out of seven isn’t bad, as I looked into this woman, before arranging the date, I realized I was forcing the “yes” a bit. She was attractive, but there were a number of things that didn’t jive for me. So I called it off. But this is the general window-shopping mode of match. You have one main image, their “seeking men” age range, and a brief headline. The green highlights are a paid feature you can add, but I’m not sure it does anything to dress up a marginal profile.

And maybe that’s issue number one with online dating in general. There are a lot of people just playing around. I have had an ongoing pursuit of a very attractive woman on Match who has accepted two dates and backed out both times within an hour of meeting. She let me know she’s not really ready for a relationship or even dating, but that trolling around on the site gives her some pleasure. She’s just playing. She doesn’t really want a date. Odd.

And there are certainly the profiles that begin, “My girlfriend made me put this up,” or “I’d never imagined I’d be on an online dating site, but…” that are clear indications that they are just playing around. Checking to see if Ryan Gosling shows up and professes a crush on them. Or something… I guess fielding 1o messages a night might be entertaining, if you’re bored and in need of a superficial ego boost. (That’s not a man’s experience, or this man’s experience. I don’t know, maybe Ryan is here and is having a hard time keeping his inbox from exploding.)

So let’s go deeper and open up one of the more appealing women who have viewed me. Now I guess, already I’m swimming against the current, because she didn’t leave any indication that she was interested. No like, wink, or message. But still, she thought my initial photo and profile blurb was attractive enough to check me out. Let’s see if we see any mutual connections.

match-seemore

 

And it seems the hardest part is finding a mutual interest, but that’s the same challenge with dating in general. The hope being, that somewhere in the 860 women who “match” my criteria there is a woman who is actually interested in a relationship and then interested in meeting me, in particular.

match-search

It’s a hard and long hunt, but what are the alternatives? Bars? Nah.

Match has one other special feature, but I’ve found it to be rather useless. Their expert algorithm calculates 7 matches a day. I’ve stopped even opening them. They are so far off that I find them more annoying than helpful.

So to sum up Match.com in my experience.

  1. Men are expected to reach out to the women and make the introductions
  2. Women tend to get a high volume of “hellos” from real suitors and creeps, while men tend to get very few
  3. A lot of people on Match.com are just messing around, socializing, playing with the idea of dating
  4. You have to weed through a lot of mis-matches before finding people who are in my zone
  5. The Weekly Matches feature is more of a distraction
  6. Finding my way through the 860 matches is a challenge and often feels hopeless
  7. A deep examination of the person’s photographs often says more than their words (looking for the one real photo, that captures the essence)
  8. Once a “hello” date is established there are still plenty of opportunities for the other person to back out (I just backed out of ms. checkmark)
  9. Finally, if you meet and BOTH feel some chemistry, there is a chance to “begin”
  10. If it’s a numbers game, we have to keep playing

Match is currently my favorite site. It seems the “pay” aspect weeds out a few more of the “playing around” people than OKCupid or Plenty of Fish. And while I prefer the questions on OKCupid, the profiles do a bit of the work, provided the woman answered honestly and with some depth.

It’s all a crap shoot. Photos lie. Profiles tell half-truths. And some of us, interested in actually establishing a relationship, spend time in the backwaters of the game sorting through “more like her” to find alternative sorting methods for the overwhelming number of non-matches it takes dig through to find a possible match.

Keep going, there are more people joining every day.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Big 5 Relationship Questions to Answer Before You Start Dating Again

OFF-girl-boy-plus

Just like everything else in life, dating requires goals. Either you are working towards those goals, or away from them. And if you don’t even know them yet, I can assure you, you are working away from them. Getting clear about why you are dating is a great first step. The further you can go down the path of clarity, in understanding what you are looking for, why you are attracted to the people you are attracted to, and what you ultimate goal is… Well, without goals, you’re going to end up starting over a lot.

The -1 response is an easy No. The +1 response is also an easy Yes. But the ones I get confused about are the neutrals.

Each time I go on a date I try to get clearer about what worked and what didn’t. I’m not in this for the fun of it, I’m pretty focused on not-being-too-focused on dating. And each time I come up empty-handed, from a developing relationship, or even a dating experience that teaches me something new, I pause and reflect. I am in one of those moments. Just let down from a very nice/short high of “almost” and back to nothing.

Walking with a friend today, I answered the question again about long-term commitment.

“Are you looking to get married again?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know. But I’m looking for a relationship. What’s after that is a bit more about the relating and the mutual goals we set.”

Here are my BIG 5 RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS you should answer before you start dating. Get yourself and your priorities oriented before you jump back into the dating pool. There is a lot of BS in the process of dating, both online profiles and meeting the person for the first time. And there are a lot of reason for wanting to date, many of which may not have anything to do with a relationship. That’s fine. I’m not interested in casual sex or building up my network of friends. I’m interested in a relationship. If that’s your perspective as well, perhaps these questions will provide some clarity out there in the ambiguous world of dating.

  1. Are you ready for a relationship or are you dating for fun and nighttime activities?
  2. Do you have a good sense of what makes you happy?
  3. What are the traits you are looking for in a partner? Is physical beauty the number one trait?
  4. How would a good first date experience look and feel?
  5. As you progress along the dating experience with someone, how would it unfold in your mind?

When you come to a relationship there has got to be a physical attraction, that’s a basic requirement for me. After we’ve done the “hi I think you’re cute” date we can both move on to what’s next. I’m noticing a new variation on the theme for me. When I’m meeting a woman for the first time I get one of three responses.

Negative: there’s no chemistry at all. The feeling may or may not be mutual. But there’s no moving forward for me.

Neutral: there might be chemistry, there might be a spark, but the response, or resonance with the other person is a bit less clear. Perhaps they are not an excitable time. Perhaps they don’t show their happiness in the same way I do. Or maybe their having a “meh” reaction and are having a hard time letting me know.

Positive: these are so rare for me, that I’m certain that they are the harbingers of a real relationship potential. These are the women who light up visually and verbally in our conversation. You don’t have to ask about a next date, because you’ve already begun planning things, or imagining things to do together.

If I am interested in a relationship, that’s going to take time, patience, perspective, and the right YES woman. And with all those things factored in, a MAYBE is so far-fetched that I am really wasting time.

What I’ve found about myself in these three situations is interesting. The -1 response is an easy No. The +1 response is also an easy Yes. But the ones I get confused about are the neutrals. And I think I’ve found myself pursuing neutrals even when I know the HIT is not there. Why? Because there are so few positives. So few women that light up the way I imagine I light up. So few women who are clear enough about what they want, and that find what I am has some of those qualities. So few YES responses. So I push on the maybe dates a bit too hard.

I’m learning. The YES is going to come from a Positive. When I am going after a neutral, I’m really compromising.

So let’s make a pact, in our next round of dating “work” I want to commit to pursuing only the clear YES women.

Everything else is a distraction. If I am interested in a relationship, that’s going to take time, patience, perspective, and the right YES woman. And with all those things factored in, a MAYBE is so far-fetched that I am really wasting time. I don’t want to mess around with “dating.” My goal is a relationship. And then a Relationship. And then a RELATIONSHIP. I’m not sure what those steps mean, but I am sure that it will only begin with a YES.

From here on NO and MAYBE are the same response. I want a YES and I want it whenever the right woman, who’s answered most of the questions above for herself, shows up and says, “What’s next.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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The Cute and Happy Woman is Nearby, I’ve Seen Her

OFF-wfm-girl

Dating and looking for romance is an odd ritual. Even as an adult, the patterns are much more like high school (maybe elementary school) than adult life. We play games. We use social networks. We put forward ideas and photos that don’t really represent our lives or our current physical fitness, all for the purpose of what?

This afternoon I am sitting at the mecca for healthy and self-conscious women, Whole Foods Market (the Austin Mothership), and I am simply observing the parade of women passing by on the up and down escalator into the building. And I can see them. The happy and attractive women are here. And many of them are attached, married, dating, or otherwise unavailable. And certainly at least some of them are not currently dating anyone, AKA: available.

Is it the predatory nature of our species that keeps our eyes to the ground of the phone, that keeps us from looking at each other?

And it’s a wonderful confirmation of all that is human about our different sizes, shapes, colors, and approaches to life. You can almost see it in the dress and attitudes of the people heading into, or just finishing up their organic, high-priced, lifestyle. I start at Whole Foods, because this seems to be the highest concentration of people in my preferred demographic. Young, upwardly mobile, attractive, and health-conscious, or getting there. I’m okay if she is a bit of a work in progress, or in transition. What I don’t want is someone who’s not even on the same planet yet.

So here they are, passing by in fitness gear, in professional work outfits, and in all stages of dress, or undress, in-between. And in the stream of women it is an interesting experiment to see who I notice, who is inherently attractive to me.

Of the “potential” types who have passed by this morning are these archetypes:

  • Fit, yoga, just about to do it, done it, or letting you know I’m doing it.
  • Just eatin lunch, stoppin by, on my way to or from work, professional.
  • The dressed-to-the-nines professional woman.
  • Casual, got out of bed, don’t have work to do, hippie.

And of these stereotypes what are the criteria that interests me:

  • Fit or fat (sorry, it’s a harsh light, and unfortunately I fall a bit more on the fat side than I’d like, but that’s life)
  • Distracted or present.
  • My phone is the center of my universe, please don’t disturb me.
  • Athletic and active.
  • Makeup or au-natural.
  • Inked or not. (no need to include the heavily inked in my opinion)
  • Spiffed up or casual.

But the amazing thing I have noticed, in this hour of observation and self-reflection… There is not a lot of joy in the place. The smiles that come up the escalator are not all that apparent. Why is everyone so serious, or distracted, or focused. Why, if they are entering Whole Foods are they not evolved like the food they are aspiring too? Is happiness such a rare trait? Do most people walk around in some form of isolation and closed self-expression? And if so, why?

Is it the predatory nature of our species that keeps our eyes to the ground of the phone, that keeps us from looking at each other? But that can’t be it. Because a lot of these women and men have put a lot of effort and thought into their wardrobe. So what’s the magic ingredient of happiness that is still so rare, even here in this rarefied air of high-end organic produce and natural body lotions?

If I were to conjure her up, at the table next to me, here’s what today’s journey into hunting or trolling has illuminated for me.

I’d like her pre-occupation to be on her kids, her creative projects, her dreams. And if she’s actually single, then I’d like to hear about her ideas about relationships.

1. Happiness above all else. The woman who did sit across from me, who was clear and comfortable with her joyousness, was like a bright light to my magnet. In this swarm of beauty at Whole Foods there is less happiness than I would’ve expected.

2. Fitness within limits. Too obsessive about exercize or abs has tended to result in slightly neurotic partners, in my limited experience. So I shy away from the uber-fit. But then, I’m not uber-fit and have a fairly low trajectory towards six-pack abs. So my fitness level is a bit out of my comfort zone, and I would guess that I’d be looking for someone in the fitness zone, within a few percentage points of my own fitness level, or the fitness level I think is within my reach.

3. External awareness. Are they seeking, open, conscious. You can almost see it.

4. A feeling of optimism, even when no one is looking. In all this coming and going, I want to see someone who shines in their own inner joy. You can tell. It’s like a halo or a force field. The “up” woman exudes her joy.

5. Eye contact and smiles. She’s looking. She’s expressing her joy. She’s so much more attractive than any uber-fit, uber-yoga’d babe in my mind.

6. Mostly makeup and ink free. I’m just not a big makeup person. There’s a time and a place for getting spiffed up and going out, but the grocery story, even a holy mecca like Whole Foods, is not the time for too much fashion work. And if they are mostly in makeup all the time, they’re probably not the right person for me. And tattoos can be interesting, but they also seem to indicate some kind of addiction when they have to branch all the way down someone’s arm or leg. And when they are trying to think of the next tattoo. If that’s a focus or preoccupation, I’m gonna pass.

I’d like her pre-occupation to be on her kids, her creative projects, her dreams. And if she’s actually single, then I’d like to hear about her ideas about relationships. If you’re not looking for a relationship, that’s fine. I am. If you’re thinking you’re looking for a relationship, but have no idea what that would look like, well… You might give it some thought.

And when you figure it out, I’m right over here, on this computer, typing a love poem to you. When I get bold, perhaps I’ll give it to you. But not right away, I’m enjoying my voyurism. This is fantasy land. And each of these women passing could be grabbing fresh vegitables for dinner, for me. Or maybe, I’m here, working and I’ll get the fresh produce for tonight. Whatever it takes to lighten us up a bit.

That’s the goal. A lighter life. A path that is about joining and enhancing rather than controlling. A relationship that is founded on mutual attraction and joy rather than any kind of necessity. I want a partner, I don’t need a partner. Let me think about that… Yes, I’d say that’s true. I’m happier with a partner, when things are going well. But the last few years of my marriage are a type of relationship I will work to avoid.

Let’s find the lighter path together. And if we find ourselves walking along it together, and continually renewing our intentions to get together again, maybe that’s enough. I’m really ready for the “ready and centered” woman to show up. She’s nearby, I can feel it. I’m just not sure how to catch her eye. I’m smiling, though.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: whole foods girl, the author, cc 2014


She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”

OFF-yes-girl

The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train, or a love crush barreling down on you.

My first Tinder crush went swimmingly and ended without a whimper. The poem (i could fall in love with a dress if it shone in the sun) was written about the final moments of this most amazing firework pop and fizzle of a relationship to-date. She was here, she came on like a freight train, and now she has passed by in the night without so much as a whimper. And I let her go. We let each other go. “Maybe for later, when your life sorts itself out a bit,” I said to her.

“I’ve always done this. I’ve always gotten into a romantic relationship right at the beginning of some huge change. I did it with my divorce, I did it when I graduated from college, and I was doing it again with you. But I’ve got to stop, this time. I’ve got to make a change. Something has got to give.”

In fact, for me, the poem was a part of the letting go process. What started out as three amazingly intense days of courtship, felt a bit too good to be true. And maybe it was. Or maybe the universe shifted, for both of us, and we needed to regroup, alone. That is certainly the case for her. And me? Well, I’m not sure if the relationship part of it needed regrouping, but I was aware of my tendency to stretch out towards someone, even after the connection was severed.

I love the wake up text. The little ritual of saying “Good Morning, Sunshine.” Just letting the other person know you are thinking of them.

It’s about being 50/50. It’s about being contributing members of the growing relationship. And when one or another partner drops out of the 50/50 partnership, it’s about stopping and listening to hear what is going on. In our case, her life had taken a wild and unexpected turn, like a rocket blasting off from the back of our collective freight train, once I had gotten on the same track with her.

Enough metaphor. She was amazing. She looked and spoke as deliciously as she texted and showed up in her best profile pictures. I could see through the styling, and honored the core brilliance that came out from the moment we met. And we met with great joy, in the middle of a huge bookstore, playing hide and seek. And she found me in the blank book section. “My favorite section,” I had texted her earlier.

“Is it appropriate for persons’s under 18 years of age?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Is it the kid’s section?”

“No.”

“Literature?”

“Great guess, but no.”

I picked the meeting spot, she picked the game. We hugged and laughed in the sweet smelling area of leather bindings and blank pages. And we talked and talked and walked around the store for a couple hours.

“I really would like to kiss you,” I said, somewhere in the middle of the second hour. “I’m just letting you know that.”

She smiled. “I would like that too,” she said, with a sly smile on her face. I was blinded a bit by the direct sunlight, but I was already feeling a bit smitten. “In a bit,” she continued.

We moved our coffees and chat into a more shady part of the outdoor park, and continued leaping from books, to blogs, to writing, to food. She was a #foodie. I am not a #foodie, but I worked with #foodies for two years. We had a lot to talk about and a lot of mutual energy to fuel us along.

She reached out her hands at some point and pulled my face in for the kiss. She planted the kiss. She initiated. She took charge. And I went back in for a second kiss a few minutes later. Reciprocating. But alas, the mosquitos and sunlight were pushing us back inside, and when there was no place to sit, we decided to rendezvous, perhaps tomorrow.

“Yes, definitely,” she said. ” I’d like to give you a kiss after your first day at your new job.”

And we texted a few more times over the night. The next morning we picked up with the chatter. This is the fun of new dating. I love the wake up text. The little ritual of saying “Good Morning, Sunshine.” Just letting the other person know you are thinking of them. And it goes both ways. It’s a simple tap. A connection that requires little more than a willingness to imagine a relationship.

We texted a few times and spoke once over the weekend. This is from full-tilt boogie, three days in a row, amazing morning selfie of a kiss, and on to ZIP.

It’s like a virtual “good morning” kiss. Except, of course, you’ve just met. But still, there is a lot of potential in those little hellos. And she was a master of the flirt. She called me on my way to work, and we had a spirited conversation about sex, and kids, and relationships, and work. And we made plans to meet for a glass of wine after work. DONE. She was efficient, hilarious, and full of love and life. I was liking this development.

In all but one of my post-divorce dating experiences I have been the over-sharing partner. I have courted when perhaps I should’ve played coy. I have sent a poem when I might have been better served to just be quiet. The whole absence makes the heart grow fonder, thing seems more like game playing as adults. If you like someone, tell them. If they like you back, jump in. She was certainly jumping in. And I was excited to see how things played out.

The wine bar date was no less exhilarating. Except this time I was anticipating the future kisses with mad fantasies. And she arrived looking like the smiling picture she had sent me earlier in the day. She was radiant. And we jostled along in our second date, wine bar, “what was your day like” conversation. It was a moment between anything actually happening. We had exchanged some very intimate information via text and phone calls, but we still didn’t really know each other. Not at all. But there was a lot of energy and intention, and that was enough to set us both on a fast track.

In the parking lot, saying goodbye she kissed me, or we kissed, again. This time there was no casual innuendo, it was all kissing. And while it didn’t last more than a minute, I was electrified. Not by the kiss, but by the potential behind the kiss. Here was a beautiful woman, saying she was ready for a relationship, saying that she thought I was cute and funny and smart, and kissing me madly in the parking lot. And we made plans to see each other the next day as well. And we parted. I walked to my car with the lift of someone who’s been well-kissed.

That was the first real moment between us, and the last good moment between us at the same time.

As things would progress, I was fired the next day, due mostly to this blog. And that collapse of my plan, nearly cratered the relationship all in one fail swoop. But she wanted to give me a hug, and to support me in this massive bummer. We met. We exchanged some more information about our current state of unknowingness. She started talking about how she had no business getting involved with anyone at this moment… And then she had to go get her daughter. We kissed awkwardly in the parking lot, in broad daylight, in a hurry. And she’d let me know her schedule over the next three days was going to be mad. So we parted in this semi-unresolved, semi-unstable place.

And then her life changed dramatically as well. (I can’t tell you about it, or I’d have to shoot you.) And I saw her smile and her texts almost drain right off my phone. The communication went from 80 mph back to a full-stop in a hurry.

I went with my “hold on loosely” strategy. Pinging, but not over pinging. A couple messages without any requests or commitment. Essentially I was supporting her in this new opportunity. And she was going with it, and full of her life. We texted a few times and spoke once over the weekend. This is from full-tilt boogie, three days in a row, amazing morning selfie of a kiss, and on to ZIP. Nothing? It was painful. It was also understandable.

The poem I was writing over the weekend to try and give a love poem to frame the joy I was getting into. Of course, the story played out, the poem went unfinished and then like magic the story completed to resolve the poem without the need for another letter.

I am ready for the dress in the sun. I am hoping there will be an intelligent and attractive woman inside who is also ready for me.

She had come and we had sparked. When we talked on the phone this morning, it was to say, “You were awesome, the timing is not awesome.” And I told her the poem was a capture of that amazing moment in the parking lot. Full of promise and potential and all imaginary. And now the poem was the answer, the complete story of us.

i could fall in love with a dress if it shone in the sunlight

I did start falling. And she let me. She responded with a “yes.” And now we’ve moved back into our individual stories, to see if at some time down the road our romance would make more sense. But we were both happy, when we spoke today. I was so glad to have rubbed up against her at such an amazing time for both of us. And we may or may not ever see each other again, and that’s okay too. But the poem captures the full experience for me.

I am ready for the dress in the sun. I am hoping there will be an intelligent and attractive woman inside who is also ready for me. This time, I got the dress and the girl, but the timing was amiss. But she gave me a taste of what things might look like when someone DOES show up, and that someone IS ready for a relationship.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Free, the Poet – My Soul Podcast Interviews The Off Parent

A wonderful podcaster interviewed me today. She’s amazing. Free, the poet. Tune in and listen while we talk about life after divorce, and dating again. What would real love look like again? How do you listen for it?

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.49.12 PM

click to hear the podcast

Free, the Poet presents My Soul: Re-Defining Aging and Lifestyles: MEN: Personal Journals “The Off Parent” Tune in and turn on.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent


First Date Lessons: If You’re Not Falling, You’re Not Learning

OFF-cigars

First dates. Oh boy. They always teach you something. And even if the wine flows, if you stay sharp, you can pick up on signals… or think you can. And as a learning individual I am getting closer to the present moment of dating, or dating ‘in the moment,’ then ever before. Last night, for example, a Match date finally agreed to meet up after weeks of back and forth emails. And the date was set, and we began some playful banter a few hours before our rendezvous.

“Do you like cigars?” she texted. “You’re date tonight…”

“What? Cigars?”

“I guess that’s a no then.”

“Do YOU like cigars?” I asked.

“Very much. A bit of a hobby. Not an addiction.”

And we were off to the races for our first “hello” date later that evening.

When we finally met over a glass or two of red wine I was curious to watch my own reaction and responses to her. I was sort of in observer-mode, but also very much open to whatever the present moment would bring.

The same phrase kept coming through loud and clear, “while I was dating a couple people…” I’m not sure if I was turned on by that idea, repulsed by it, or intrigued about the opportunities of the evening.

I noticed right away that she was charming and beautiful. Her eyes sparkled much more than they could’ve possibly shown in her profile photos. And there was a joy to our conversation, an openness, and freeness to how our different stories and lives spun together over the next few hours together.

I was curious about how I was sizing her up for a relationship. At first I was just fascinated by her wit, intelligence, and routine flip of her long dark hair from one side of her neck to another. I think that was a sign. Maybe it was just a tick. We leapt through conversations about exes and kids, about dating and current status.

“I’m dating this guy right now,” she said, “And I think I need to break it off.”

“Oh?”

“He’s super nice, and is really into me, but I’m not sure he’s long-term material for me.”

“Is that what you are looking for?”

“Yes, I’m a long-term girl. But it’s hard. Making someone unhappy.”

“And,” I added, “Maybe it’s hard to be alone.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought when I first got out of my marriage. And I went through a period of not wanting any sort of commitment, and I sort of played the field.”

“Wow, really. What was that like.”

“It was fun at first, but it got kind of old. There were some people I really liked and others who were just available.”

“And were there any that you really liked, who maybe wanted to move on?”

“Yes. That was hard.”

“So maybe you would rather keep this current relationship rather than risk being alone again?”

“Yes, it’s easier to have someone to do stuff with. And boys are a lot more fun to hang out with than girls.”

We smiled at one another and decided to order dinner to go with our second glass of wine.

As the evening progressed we moved through a lot of topics. Her eyes continued to sparkle. Her smiling conversational wit continued to entice me. I wasn’t sure if I was really attracted to her or fascinated by her. I was aware that her perfume was similar to a scent I had used when I was young, something from Aramis. I liked how the smell of her made me lean in a bit. I was clear that I was indulging in my own little fantasy. At the same time I was enjoying our conversation and the topics we covered. She seemed fearless in exposing and expressing herself.

As the evening progressed we moved through a lot of topics. Her eyes continued to sparkle. Her smiling conversational wit continued to entice me.

The same phrase kept coming through loud and clear, “while I was dating a couple people…” I’m not sure if I was turned on by that idea, repulsed by it, or intrigued about the opportunities of the evening. Well, except for the fact that she had a kid at home and we both had work in the morning. As we were considering paying and breaking off the conversation we ordered one more glass that we would split. I took this as a good sign. We were both prolonging the “date” a bit longer.

I walked her to the car wondering if she was a kisser or not. We hugged twice and she got in her Fiat 500 convertible and left.

When I got home I texted her a thank you and requested her email address so I could send her a book. It was about 11:15 and no reply came. So this morning I continued my communication and asked if she was interested in getting together again on Saturday night. Her message was clear.

plansforsat

Now, that was pretty clear. No rejoinder. Either she’s being coy and wants me to pursue or she’s not that interested in continuing our conversation. And in my clear way I asked if there were some point in the future when she’d like to get together again. I probably should’ve just kept quiet after that text, but I’m always one to ask for the rest of the information rather than guess.

Nothing.

Oh well, it was a nice conversation, she was a nice woman who liked to date several people at once, perhaps. And we will see if the weeks of waiting for a first date and the several hours of nice courtship has any “next steps.” But at the moment I am feeling fine with the date as it was. A nice woman, a nice Pinot, and eyes that sparkled in the romantic light of the wine bar.

I’m okay with her not being a first date kisser. (I’ve only had one of those.) I’m okay with her not being interested in “what’s next.” I’m even okay with the attraction I felt about her disclosures. It’s all new territory for me and most of us out there dating again after divorce. And I’m okay with that. We’re all just trying to figure it out. It’s a process. Onward we go with good illumination and perhaps a glass of wine.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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My Casual Sex Experience – First Lesson

OFF-hotdate

Following on my Casual Sex post, there is a little more unpacking required to understand what casual sex is and isn’t, to me. Here are a few of MY assumptions about casual sex:

IS:

  • Spontaneous
  • Present moment – not imagining the future plans
  • Fresh, new, dangerous (in your mind)
  • Two willing and lust-filled partners
  • All about enjoyment of both partners

IS NOT:

  • Relationship material (not necessarily)
  • Full of conditions or restrictions
  • Building a connection with the partner
  • Assuming you are sleeping over even if it’s late
  • Making Mexican breakfasts in the morning
  • Waking up together
  • Love making

Again, I am not trying to write the rules of casual sex, I am merely trying to orient myself to the ingredients in my experience (very limited) that make up sex without strings. (NSA – no strings attached)

In my most recent fling I was amazed at my ability to remain surface with this woman in distress. She was in the very early stages of divorce, still in a bit of euphoria at being released. And I knew the emotional reality was inescapable. You can’t walk away from the plane crash while the plane is still in the air. And nobody gets out unscathed. Still she was electric with her passion and rocket body, as she teased and touched my arm in response to my flirtatious banter.

And I really enjoyed her. Her condo, her dog, snuggling on her couch and watching OITNB. We had a wonderful thing going on. But one romantic dinner and few more encounters later and the OITNB season 2 finale, we were done. She simply asked if I would be mad if she wanted to go upstairs and sleep alone.

Done.

I suspect the dating site is more of an escape, as I had been, from the crushing work of separating from someone you’ve been married to most of your adult life.

I waved goodbye to all of her cool condo newness, to her sweet dog who was beginning to get attached to the sound of my non-threatening male voice. I grabbed the Ben and Jerry’s I’d brought over and headed for the door. She didn’t even walk me out, as she had done every time before. She was hurting. Something in her exit strategy was not going to plan. And she would rather not have someone else around while she felt things. I understood. And in some ways I appreciated the casual nature of our moment together. I was not responsible to fix or assist her in getting through her emotional collapse.

In some ways I was prepared to be there for her, but I knew my connection was more about the fantastic breasts with the perfect tan lines. I was not signing on for processing old relationships, dealing with the money of divorce, or being her emotional punching, snuggling, pushing, pulling, partner. Nope, I walked out of the door, slightly sad, and slightly relieved.

I have thought about her over the last week. And I have sent her a few uplifting texts that did not suggest getting together, even if that was my intent. And since we’re still connected on Match.com I see that she is still active. (Online in the last 3 hours.) So perhaps it was just me. Maybe this was her way of exiting the fling that no longer met her needs. Or if there was closeness developing between me and her dog, perhaps she didn’t like how that was feeling.

Here, alone again, I can reset and rebalance before moving back onto the playing field.

I suspect the dating site is more of an escape, as I had been, from the crushing work of separating from someone you’ve been married to most of your adult life. She didn’t know how to date, or what dating meant. I think she was pretty clear that we weren’t dating.

She made a joke about something her husband said. “You’d better hookup with someone who can afford you,” he told her. “Because I don’t what them touching my money.”

It was sad. “Of course,” I said, “It’s not his money any more, once you’re divorced.” But the sadness was the fact that they weren’t divorced yet. And her still-husband was just starting to lawyer up. He was asking her, according to her, if this is really what she wanted.

It’s kind of like me, asking her, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Her ex was trying to prevent a costly divorce. And I was hoping to see her costly breasts again.

Is that callous? I’m sorry. I found it sort of funny. Not at her expense, I could not anticipate what she was about to go through. Nor could I take responsibility for any of the pain and chaos that was about to hit her secure little world of working-by-choice two days a week, as a way to establish something more interesting in her life than her crossfit workouts, and children who were off and living on their own.

I am not apologizing for our relationship. It was fast, furious, and full of fun. And in the end she gave me the exit sign and said thank you. And I suppose that’s the beauty of keeping the attachment as surface as possible. My desire is about her body and the pleasure I derived from being with her. But even cuddling in bed after sex was a struggle for her. I think it was such a foreign activity that she wanted to turn the TV on immediately. And being a bit of a non-TV person that was my clue to leave.

But she needed cuddling when I last saw her. And she wasn’t willing to let me even close to whatever was hurting her inside. We watched the grand climax of season 2 and she asked me to leave and take my goodies with me. I patted the wonderful little dog beside me and kissed her gently on the top of her head.

“Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I am your friend.”

I’m not looking for “almost” in a relationship. Maybe in some FWB or casual sex way I am, but that is only marginally interesting to me.

And I meant it. Perhaps more than casual sex I am defining FWB (friends with benefits) for myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her crossfit body or her cuddly dog again. And while that carries a hint of sadness for me, since I have no other prospects in my field of vision, it also provides a moment of relief and pause.

Here, alone again, I can reset and rebalance before moving back onto the playing field.

And I’ve had two “hello dates” since then that both seemed to lean towards potential. And one of them, I’m certain by her responses over the following two days, would’ve loved a relationship of some sort. But I’m not looking for “almost” in a relationship. Maybe in some FWB or casual sex way I am, but that is only marginally interesting to me.

If there’s no long-term potential, I’m not all that interested. There I said it again.

I guess this time I’m believing it even more. But there might be room for that tangential fling when the moment arises again. And I might go for it. But, at the moment, I’m not so into that idea. Perhaps my touch-needs were well met with my crossfit maven.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Casual Crossfit Sex

OFF-crossfit

We’d just finished a rather rawkus roll in the hay and I said, “Whew, maybe I should start doing crossfit with you.”

“What would you get out of crossfit?” she asked. A glow in her face, told the story of her experience.

I didn’t really need to answer that, now did I? But I was winded. We’d just had a energetic and fun sexual encounter and we were still wrapped together in post-coital snuggles. My heart was racing and my lungs were still catching up. See, she had this crossfit body, and even though she was six years older (and at our age that can be a lot more distant than you think) she was uber-fit. And I was expressing my desire, in that moment, to make love to her even better, even more energetically and with more stamina and longevity.

I think it’s about communication. And communication during sex is difficult. Or it can be.

BUT… I’ve been learning recently, that a woman often doesn’t want or need porn-length sex. As men, we’re taught that you’ve got to stay in control, and last as long as you possibly can. But that’s a trap that comes back and haunts you later in life. If you stay controlled during sex you may be missing some of the greatest parts of it: utter and uncontrollable abandon. If it’s all about how-long-can-I-last I am probably not focusing on how-good-can-I-make-it for her.

Okay, so we’re in need of an update around this sex thing and how long should it last. So, from what I’ve been reading (Kiss and Tell – Secrets of Sexual Desire in Women) a woman is usually okay with sex taking about 15 – 20 minutes, rather than an hour or more. What? That was news to me, even in my early 50’s that women didn’t always crave the afternoon-of-love like I did. And that’s not to say that we’ve gone back to wham-bam-thank-you-mam, but we’re somewhere in between.

Again, I think it’s about communication. And communication during sex is difficult. Or it can be.

In my training as a sexual athlete I learned to listen and wait for the woman to have an orgasm first. Always. It was a sense of pride I had, to always wait. Um, okay, but what if the woman often had a hard time achieving orgasm? Or what if they were really just jumping in the sack to meet my need at that moment, and didn’t really care to much about an orgasm for themselves.

Often this difficulty in orgasming could have a direct relationship on their willingness to have sex in the first place. AND if it was all about them, all about me waiting for them, that was going to put some undue pressure on them. What? Pressure on them to have an orgasm? When did we get to worrying about that?

A lot of factors come into play with orgasms, that if we can remove those expectations, we can have more fun making love to the other person and enjoying the act of love making ourselves.

And in this new age of older sex and even sex with new and different women (post-divorce) we’ve got a whole new language of love to figure out. And though orgasms are cool, the can also be an inhibition. It sounds like a contradiction, but let me explain.

I really enjoy making love. Almost all of the aspects of the routine and ritual of courting and coupling, I love. And in the act, I am fully engaged and fully digging it, even if I NEVER have an orgasm. (I don’t me never, that would be a discussion I needed to have with my doctor.) I mean, if I don’t have an orgasm during one of our sexual encounters I am not really disappointed. In fact, some of my desire to crossfit train, as I was expressing it to this woman, was my desire to last longer. To enjoy the act of making love to her, as much as the moment when it climaxed in a fiery release. Hopefully, for both of us.

This time we were successful and our new love making found the momentum it needed for both of us to have an orgasm. Cool. But not necessary for ME to be satisfied. A lot of factors come into play with orgasms, that if we can remove those expectations, we can have more fun making love to the other person and enjoying the act of love making ourselves. If it’s all about the O, then we’ve both got some performing to do.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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An Early Frost: Dating Options and Casual Sex

OFF-fordrinks

As “summer” has officially ended with the kids return to school, the landscape of my dating prospects has also had a dramatic shift.

1. The casual sex bunny has gone into hibernation. Seems the early round divorce work finally found her tender spot and she’s withdrawn diplomatic relations. I’m watching for signs that my heart was involved, but so far I am merely sympathetic to her plight. The early stage divorce process is no picnic, no matter how prepared you think you are. This is the primary reason we kept such a nice casual approach. No need to get deep when the ecstasy and whim might be fleeting. And it was.

What I’m learning at this very moment, is sometimes even the casual thing, is pushing a bit to hard for a relationship.

I count this relationship as a victory in my liberation from the previous “structure and mappings” of my relationship ideas. In some ways, learning to be casual at the beginning, learning to let go of expectations and projections of what will be, is a good thing. And I’m not saying I’m a player now. I don’t think I am. But I do think that if the “r” of relationship is never capitalized it’s okay. It’s not a failure if both of you enter into the arrangement eyes-wide-open.

And thus, I am sad about losing this remarkable woman from my circle of friends. She made the “don’t call me, I’ll call you” nature of her withdrawal pretty clear the last time I was at her house. And maybe she’ll lighten up and contact me later, but pushing into this friendship would not be an advisable strategy.

2. And the second tennis-playing and un-kissed prospect gave me the “friends” proposition last night over a nice bottle of wine. At least there is no longer any ambiguity about where we were heading. No where, according to her. “I like you a lot… But…” And then she felt bad that I didn’t want to jump to a different bar for another drink. Things got kind of frosty on her side, but I think she was apologizing for spoiling the mood more than expressing any loss on her end. “It’s not like you broke my heart,” I said as we hugged in the parking lot. “It’s fine, and I wish you well.”

With this women I was perfectly comfortable with the slow start. The lack of kissing opportunities was balanced by her good flirting. She liked to flirt. She liked to give me a hard time. And all that was cool. Even teasing can be kind of bonding. But her edge was also there, and she readily admitted to being a hard ass, as she sent the first bottle of wine to another table as a gift, because it was so bad.

And she asked the bartender to change the 4 x 4 television so that all screens would be on the US Open. Um, I don’t think that’s going to happen. And it didn’t. But she was happy to ask, in a sort of demanding tone. I could see the control and capture issues pretty clearly, but she had called me for an after-work drink. “Sure.” But I’m pretty sure that’s the last one we’ll have. Oh well, we move along and learn.

I had dodged a potential bullet, getting involved with a harshly critical woman, and was once again clear of the “prospect” nature of our developing relationship.

3. Tinder – the hookup app won’t load on my iPhone. I think it must be karmic or some other reason that the dating app of the new generation won’t load on my phone. It’s funny. And while I like hearing the experiences of one of my male friends, I’m not sure the swipe right or swipe left mode of connecting is all that alluring to me.

Match.com seems to be about the right fit. OK Cupid was cool, but it seems the “free” aspect leads to a lot more people who are not at all ready or really interested in a relationship. And eHarmony… well, we don’t really need to talk about a dating system that feeds you their “matches” rather than letting you browse. I don’t care how awesome their demographic/analytic system is, I want to browse. So the app form of dating is not all that warm for me at the moment. And actually that’s fine. My creativity is blazing, and when I left the blazé woman last night, I was happy. My evening opened back up to creativity and production.

What I’m learning at this very moment, is sometimes even the casual thing, is pushing a bit to hard for a relationship. The tennis-but-no woman was a stretch. She was attractive enough and funny and friendly, but she had such a biting edge that I was glossing over, I’m not sure I was all that clear where my intention was with her. And I think that’s a pretty critical element of dating again after divorce, you need to know what your intention is in dating. If you are looking for casual, great, own that and don’t be disappointed when a few casual prospects grow cold. And if you’re looking for the next Mr. or Mrs. Lovejoy, be cool with that too. It’s mainly about being cool with yourself and what you’re looking for. AND even more importantly, being easy on yourself and your ego as things don’t work out. That too is a learning moment.

Last night as I drove away from the BJ’s I was almost elated. I had dodged a potential bullet, getting involved with a harshly critical woman, and was once again clear of the “prospect” nature of our developing relationship. I told her at the bar, “I don’t need friends to go get a drink with. I’m looking for someone I can kiss at the end of the date.” She had just mentioned moving to another bar so she could smoke a cigarette. Um, what? That would’ve been a deal killer anyway.

Onward, untethered and wide-open again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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If Age is Just a Number Why Do I Still Want to Lie About It?

OFF-winners

Yadda yadda, people lie about their age. In fact, the woman I’m dating at the moment, said she was 49 in her online profile. And when we met, I couldn’t have told you any different. But she was 57. She admitted it fairly early on in our first date.

I get it. The women who proposition me on Match.com look much more like my mom than I’d care to admit. (Please, at least try to update your look, won’t you?)

If we could forget that number is an age, we might find compatibility in a wider range of people.

And when I first entered the online dating pool I posted my age as 45, rather than 50. It just felt a lot more like my tribe. But I learned pretty quickly that I was mistaken. When you start courting younger women and begin to look for connections beyond youth, beauty, and “having fun,” there might not be a lot of common ground. Your musical tastes will be different. You grew up with different TV shows, movies, bands, global events. It can be done, but I’ve found a lot of comfort in being with women of my own age, or god-forbid, a bit older.

So when this woman was clearly within my range of beauty and fitness and admitted to lying about her age, I was nonplussed. “Yeah, I did that before. (pause) But I am 51.”

Here are few of the assumptions I have about age.

  • People our age (50’s) are often more like my parents than my peers.
  • If you haven’t taken care of yourself (mentally and physically) by the time you are 50, you will be looking 60.
  • Gray hair might be nice, on octogenarians.
  • Fitness can be a factor at any age, but in your 5o’s you’re either fit or you’re not. (And I’m not talking about weight, exactly.)
  • Age is one of the first qualifiers or disqualifies when looking online for a date

I used to like looking at the younger 4o-somethings and imagining… But the actually engagement rate was very low. And when I did hook one in for a date, I was underwhelmed by their banter. It was a missed connection from the start. Even when the cutest girl I had laid eyes on in more than two years was sitting in my car after a first date that involved margaritas, I was tempted but not really interested in kissing her or pursuing the next date.

She was a bit miffed later and she texted me, “You looked like you were going to kiss me, but you didn’t. WTH?”

I was still unclear on what I would get out of a “relationship” with this young runner. She was fit, pretty, smiled and laughed a lot, and we had nothing in common.

So there is some wisdom to the adage, stick with people your own age. At least within your high school class. (That would be a 4-year range on either side of your actual age.)

Now physical age is different from attitude or youthfulness. I am 51, and I’ll admit to taking the George Clooney out of my hair every 6 – 8 weeks, but I’m always getting, “No way,” when I tell the younger women, my real age. (This is not from online dating, I’ve been reporting my real birthday since my second week there–four years ago.) So age is a number, how?

  • What you do in the evenings
  • What you do for fun
  • What you do to stay fit
  • Your curiosity and joy at learning new things
  • How you entertain yourself when you are alone
  • What you bring to the conversation
  • How much energy you have
  • How much joy you have

It is NOT:

  • How much partying you can do
  • How much you like to drink
  • How good you are in bed
  • How flat your stomach is
  • The color of your hair (though I have succumbed to this trap, more for work purposes than dating, but it helps.)

If we could forget that number is an age, we might find compatibility in a wider range of people. But it’s a deal breaker for me. I’m sure the genius 42 year-old is out there. She’s a famous rockstar named Imogen Heap. But there’s a really slim chance we’re ever going to meet. Outside of that, I’ll take beauty, age, and wisdom over fitness, youth, and spontaneity, every time.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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5 Early Warning Signs When Dating: Looking for Mr. or Ms. Lovejoy

OFF-e-lady

 

Conducting a rigorous self-examination to help determine my own readiness for dating.

___

Let’s talk about joy for a second. How do you recognize it? When you see a joyful person do you gravitate towards them? Certainly we can spot the absence of joy a mile away. Steer clear of the hottie in the black dress with the angry eyes and enhanced frown. She’s packing heat of a variety we’re much too familiar with from our 11 years of marriage, six of them happy.

As a divorced adult, we have been freed of all (most) of those constraints. Now, instead of suffering through the bad times, we can just move on. When a few too many red flags come up early in a relationship, it’s OK, at this stage in our lives to just say, “Later. And good luck.”

When you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

The closer we get to our own innate joy (even when alone) the more we are able to recognize the same joy in others. And it’s a process—we don’t emerge from divorce happy and hopeful. We might think we are, we might hit the ground (dating sites) running, for example, but most likely the divorce process, the recovery from divorce, will take a number of years. I’m sorry to break that news to you if you’re just emerging from an unhappy marriage, but relationships, even starting out, take work. And when you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

♦◊♦

For me, it was indeed, several years before I was ready (am ready) to enter into a joyful relationship. Before that time, I was interested in a relationship, but I was not bringing a full and healthy person to the table, so to speak. I was showing up, smiling as much as possible, and telling my happy tales, but I wasn’t able to fake it ’til I made it. I just wasn’t very good at covering up the real emotions that were still wrestling within me. It’s OK. It was actually better for me NOT to get what I wanted. It was necessary for me to spend some time alone, to sort through my regrets and triumphs and decide from a balanced perspective, what I was looking for in “next.”

So, maybe by examining and sharing some of the joyful things I look for in a woman, I can better understand my motivations, and you can better understand the male sex impulse that is often troublesome and misguided. But first, let’s get one thing straight: I am not an apologist for men and their bad habits. I am a thinking and feeling man in search of my next relationship. I’m not clear on what exactly that means, and I am clear that I don’t know. But I do know what I will and will not tolerate in my search for Ms. Lovejoy.

Here are five signs I’ve identified that the man you are looking at is more of a fractured soul than he is letting on.

ONE: He’s too positive.

Everything is great! My kids are great! My ex is great! And my, you are great too! I’m so happy I could sing the Pharrell song all day long. I’m the most positive person most of my friends have ever met. I just radiate positive energy. “You can feel it, right?” Stand back from Mr. Yes. I’ve been this dude. And while I do profess to have a very positive and happy outlook on life, I know that I can overdo it. I once floundered in a lopsided dating experience, because I was so damn positive I was going to be able to shift it from the friend-zone to something more intimate. I was wrong. But even the woman mentioned, “You’re one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” Yeah sure, I thought, just kiss me then. We never really kissed. And after a few months, I woke up and smelled the coffee. She was not ready for any relationship beyond just holding hands and a sweet peck on the lips at the end of a snuggly evening. Fine, but that’s not what I was looking for. It too me a while to get beyond being so UP. But when I sense it in someone else now, I put up some more awareness filters and look to see if it’s covering up something that’s deeper and unresolved. For me, it wasn’t really about unresolved issues, but I did let a distant dating relationship go on for a long time, thinking my yes-mind was going to convince her to sleep with me. Nope. When the person is too happy, move along.

We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties.

TWO: He’s too accommodating.

“Oh sure, we can reschedule,” I texted her for the third time in a month. We’d not been able to work out the first “hello” date. Each time there was some event that came up. And all of them about an hour before we were scheduled to meet. I was accommodating even after the third, “I can’t meet this morning. Sorry.” But I was too accommodating perhaps, and denying that she was giving me all the signs she was not ready at all for a date. When it’s too easy to move the date, you might be looking at someone who’s desperate. Even though she was resetting and I was being accommodating, I was ignoring my own over-accommodating tendencies. And I realize, just as I’m writing this, that she’s a disaster waiting to happen. If she’s reset three times, and within an hour of our meeting … Why do I think she’s going to be a different person in actual relationship. Um … Oops. I’m too accommodating sometimes. I need to move on from this one.

THREE: He’s too eager to listen.

“Women really want you to listen.” It’s advice you’re going to get from both men and women when you start dating again. And the premise is correct. Listening is something we’ve become less and less adept at over the years, and with the increasing pace of life and technological interruptions. So slowing down and paying attention to what the other person is saying, IS important. But it can be over done. When the listening is too animated, too connected, you need to gauge whether someone is being attentive for their own needs or as a strategy. I listened like a therapist. I listened to women complain about their marriages. I listened to them talk about how great their kids were. I even listened to their funny online dating stories. And I listened too much, and too long, when I should’ve ended the “going nowhere” date. But I didn’t. I was trained to listen to women. Almost as a technique to satisfy my marriage, a counseling recommendation, “Just listen. Quit trying to respond before you’ve heard what she’s saying.” Yes, that’s true in relationship, but in a dating, and early dating situation, you need to listen, but do it lightly. When I catch myself listening for overtones and hints, I try to stop. I try to just listen lightly, respond naturally, and just have a conversation. I am not a therapist. And when I listen hard, like I am a therapist, I am really just trying to get you to love me, or to trust me, or to sleep with me.

FOUR: He’s touchy-feely.

I’m a hugger and a toucher. It’s my love language. I express myself through touch. And I feel most loved when I’m being touched. So if I go in for the arm brush too early, be aware that I’m feeling you out for your touchy-feely level. And if I’m too touchy I might be showing my own emptiness or hunger. You might not be ready to be devoured. Are you responsive? Do you recoil when I touch you? (We’re talking first dates here, so either way it’s OK, but it’s giving me a lot of information.) Do you touch me back? Do you lean into the touch? I can tell a lot from a first intentional touch on your shoulder. Sure, I am illustrating a point, but I’m trying to sense out your touchy-feely scale. Are you a 10 like me? Or does touch/hugging/kissing/sex come with deeper reservations? I admit this is a learned technique. And when I touch you, it IS casual, but I am looking for clues to how you will react later on. I’m not doing it in a creepy or manipulative way, but you need to know I’m doing it. And if you are a touchy-feely person as well, we’re going to hit it off wonderfully. If you’re touch-adverse, I’m guessing you’ll give off these clues fairly quickly.

FIVE:  He makes smoldering eye contact.

When I was in my early, and very passionate, months of trying to date, I tried to convey my seriousness and earnestness with my dark and smoldering eyes. I wasn’t trying to affect them. I was just peering out of very emotional eyes and I wanted you to see and notice how sensitive I was. How deeply I felt things that you were saying. And how deeply I wanted to drink you in. That hunger is evident in the eyes. My pools of reflection were deep, and I thought I was showing my deep feeling. What I was doing was using my “honest feelings” as a way to hook you. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it didn’t ever really result in the date I was looking for. But I was deep, deep, I’m telling you. When you see an infinite and sensitive soul in your date, you might sit back a bit and see how desperate that searching feeling gets. Being a pussycat, I never pounced with this dark killer instinct, but I knew I was not 100% ready for what I might get had I leapt into the frenzy from this wounded place.

♦◊♦

What’s the Solution?

Now, most of these things are not tactics. They are simply how I am in real life, only exaggerated about 10X. I do have deep and sensitive eyes, but I shouldn’t really be lasering you with them on the first date. When I’m doing that I’m too hungry, I’m too aggressive, I am too enthusiastically in pursuit of you. And asking me to back off is going to give me the signal and information I’m looking for anyway. When the chemistry is right between us, it’s possible that these clues, or tells, are going to resonate between us. That’s happened a couple of times. And while none of them turned into the long-term relationship I am ultimately seeking, I learned a lot from every experience.

And really, that’s the message I want to get across. We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties. The world has changed quite a bit. And our expectations and what we will and will not tolerate have changed quite a bit as well. I am aware of my tendencies towards obsession or over-thinking. When I am free of these habits I am more confident that I am actually ready to try for a relationship again.

Be aware of your seeking patterns and when they are out of balance, or overblown, you might dial back your intensity a bit and examine what’s going on for you. In my case, when I find I’m hyper-extending any of my dating super powers, I try and spend some time not dating, so I can recenter on my goals and needs. With a date in sight, and the potential for sexual intimacy, I’m less able to make rational and self-centered decisions.

When I am clear, I can make rational and appropriate decisions. When the chemistry is ON but the warning signs are also shining bright, I can walk away from the temptation. I don’t want surface relationships. I want whole relationships. Or a single whole relationship, that’s my ultimate goal, one relationship. But I’ve got a long way to go before settling down. And I promise I won’t settle for less than awesome.

When you’re dating again after divorce you’ve got to remember to remain a bit more self-centered. You’re not in this next relationship to compromise. You’re in it for the win. Sure, we’re going to fail, we’re going to make mistakes. But knowing where we play games, or where we accentuate our own desires, the better we can adjust and get more real about what and who we want to be with next.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Erectile Misfire Might Be More About the Sex Than the Dysfunction

OFF-happypills

I will have to put this out first, I have no experience with Viagra(tm) or any of its variants from other pharma companies. That said, I have had occasional drooping member issues. For the most part those occurrences were either alcohol or exhaustion related. BUT… the variant I’d like to examine for a second, from my perspective, is the misfire that is a result of some other issues or distractions.

This is not a scientific study, and I hold no degrees in relationship counseling or medical diagnosis. All I have is myself and my experience for data. But even from this small and finite sample set, I am certain that I have identified several patterns that cause my excitement to exit the room. And of course it’s a two-way street, I have not been able to unlock every single woman I’ve been with either. But I can tell you I give it a very thorough try, and experiment, and I ask for feedback. Still, sometimes things don’t jive. It happens.

I was more aware of the disconnection between the sex I wanted and the sex I was about to engage in.

One woman I was with, since divorce, let me know in the same sentence that I had been amazing and that me not having an orgasm was really just about my brain and my thing. While she went on to be less insightful about her own massive issues, and the relationship didn’t work out, I did appreciate her simple approach. “It’s all in your head,” she said. And in this case I agree.

Here are the several situations that have shut down my sexual response in the past.

1. If the act no longer seems pleasing to the woman. Sure, sometimes you need to be able to sit back and let the other person take control. This is awesome. But when the act starts to take on the tone of a chore or obligation, I’m done. “Let’s do something else.” If I can tell that you are not into it, or getting impatient, I’m going to freeze up and try as I may, my manliness will wilt under the “gitterdun” gaze. (I understand that this is a thing for women too.)

2. If we’re tired, or you’re not into it, let’s stop. It’s okay. And what I’ve learned ever more powerfully since my divorce, the orgasm is not the end-all be-all of sex. The act of making love is awesome by itself. Sometimes I even try to delay orgasm for me so I can just enjoy the time in the act.

Sex is all in the mind. If your mind is elsewhere, I’d rather let you go do whatever it is that is distracting you from being enthusiastically present with me.

3. Those far away eyes. The first time my wife looked bored during sex I was shocked. We’d just gotten her off and now it was my turn. And there was the moment, where I would’ve sworn, had she been wearing a watch, that she was checking her watch. Of course she wasn’t checking her watch, but something in her look, or non-look showed me she had checked out. She was waiting, somewhat patiently, to finish. Well, I was finished right away. It wasn’t about orgasm for me, that was a topper. It was about connection. And when that connection was severed, the very first time, I knew things were off between us. And from then on, I admit, I was a bit sensitive to her attention. Sex is about a connection for me, not about a release. All the mechanics aside, if there’s no connection between me and my sexual partner, I would rather go fishing.

4. The other person is sort of into it. But you can tell it’s a bit of a stretch. Maybe they are distracted, or there’s other things on their mind. In my opinion it’s better to skip it, rather than jump into a half-enthusiastic sex session. Sex is not like tv, it’s not a distraction. Everything else is the distraction. If you can’t pay attention during sex, well, what would you rather be paying attention to? Go do that. Because sex with a partially engaged partner is just slightly better than masturbation. And sometimes, not as good.

The several times I have run into my own moments of self-doubt, wondered if I needed to go see Mr. Viagra, and even began to question my own sex drive, I was more aware of the disconnection between the sex I wanted and the sex I was about to engage in. Sometimes you can trick your brain into thinking half-present sex is okay. But after a while your own body begins to sniff our the signals of the underwhelmed partner.

Sex is all in the mind. If your mind is elsewhere, I’d rather let you go do whatever it is that is distracting you from being enthusiastically present with me. The several times I wondered about my own sexual potency, I realized it was much more about my heart and my intention in making love in the first place. When the passion, connection, and desire is there, I have yet to misfire. When it’s not there, I have begun to listen to the signals rather than try to override them.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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What Is Casual Sex? I Have No Experience with This…

OFF-upsidedown

Okay, so let’s put EVERY SINGLE POST before this one, on hold for a second. Let’s suspend our previously assumed beliefs, desires, and road maps. And reset for just a second from the perspective of casual or recreational sex. Um… This is not a term or concept that I’m very familiar with. I think my generation was either way into it, or we weren’t. So, when a woman appeared recently, and introduced the concept (non-verbally) that we might enjoy a roll in the hay, just for the fun of it, I was a bit taken off guard.

I knew this was possible in the post-divorce dating apocalypse. I knew these free-thinking older women existed, but I had not had the pleasure of meeting one until now. And to her, I was an attractive, healthy, and willing younger man. She confessed to having lied on her OK Cupid profile, she wasn’t 49.

So, casual sex to me means no intentions or expectations about the future of the relationship. In all of my writing, to this point, I was *always* talking about long-term goals. What my expectations are for dating someone, and growing that into something more like a relationship. That’s all I thought about. Or thought was available to me. And this woman walked in with all the swagger of a professional athlete and she began to show me some signs that more opportunities might be possible. It wasn’t that we were talking about sleeping together, we weren’t. But the talk of sex did come up fairly early and in a playful and light way.

“Oh I get it,” I said. “The women that often approach me, the one or two times a week it happens, are usually very disappointing. So I get it. Age is just a number.”

“How old do you think I am,” she asked.

“I’m not falling for that trap,” I laughed. “You’re quite attractive and fit for whatever age you are.”

She wasn’t actually the woman who I would put as “next.” But my libido was pushing my maps to the bottom of the drawer.

That brought a smile to her face and another margarita to the table in front of her. And it wasn’t like it was immediately apparent that we were going to sleep together, because it wasn’t. But the chemistry was there from the moment she came in the restaurant, from my perspective. And sure, the signs were there. She was smiling a lot, we were exchanging casual arm touches, and the ritas started doing their magic as our topics jumped from kids, to future, the divorce, and back again.

She had some of my favorite physical characteristics: dark hair, dark skin, a winning smile, and an affinity for tennis. Perhaps it was her fitness and tennis skirt that did me in. (That was in her dating profile.) She showed up in a LBD (little black dress) that was all but explosive. The idea that she was an “older” woman never crossed my mind. She worked at being fit and flirtatious, and it was paying off. She knew what she was putting out and she found me receptive and accommodating. Again, this is more about courtship and play, than about jumping in the sack. I don’t think she’d had a relationship since her divorce. But she was sprinkling magic fairy dust all over the conversation and me. Perhaps I was bewitched.

Nothing out of the ordinary, so far. It was a first date after all. And nobody is really into sleeping with someone on the first date, right? So we carried on as any other first date would, except there was a joyousness and lightness to our conversation. And actually that’s what had drawn me in this far, she was very funny in her texts and emails. And she liked my sense of humor. This join was apparent and clear in our 2 hour lunch with tequila.

And I walked her to her car. No biggie. Not going for a first kiss, but a nice hug. And that was nice. She was an amazingly fit 5’2″ like a little fitness dynamo. I was enamored. And we talked about maybe getting together again later in the evening for some live music or something. Something…

I handed her a cd of the music that was rocking my world at the moment. Imogen Heap. And she drove off and called me moments later thanking me for showing her how to use her CD-player in her car. A nice new convertible. Wow. She was something else.

But she wasn’t actually the woman who I would put as “next.” But my libido was pushing my maps to the bottom of the drawer. Of course the tequila was talking as well. But we’d been drinking water for the last hour, so I was clear she was some different breed of woman. As joyous and playful as I thought I was. Was that a match or just a HIT.

I got back to my house and passed out on the bed. (see poetic naps) I didn’t even hear the text an hour later from her that asked what I might have in mind for later. And when I roused again my phone was ringing. It was her. What? Most people blow you off at the first sign of a near miss. We talked around options and decided on Orange is the New Black at her house. “Should I bring a bottle of wine,” I asked. She had everything we needed.

“I’m touchy feely,” I said. She laughed and said, “It’s all good.”

And from there I have to admit I was hooked in to the idea of casual, what’s this all about, sex with her. And the odd part is, I was feeling no pain, no resistance, just pure and easy desire. On both our parts! How refreshing. Even as I was showing to get ready I could feel the jump in my skin. The idea of sex was already making its way through my bloodstream.

And we watched an episode over a first glass or rosé. And I’m a red man, so I was a tiny bit disoriented. But she was all there and all present and all okay with my wandering hand. And I mean, on her neck and shoulder. “I’m touchy feely,” I said. She laughed and said, “It’s all good.” Green lights all across my internal instrument panel.

We had not spoken one word about “dating” or what was next. We weren’t really talking about our relationship, or what our expectations were. And that was refreshing. We were just being in the moment and being in touch with the chemistry that was catching fire. And when things did finally catch fire, I was even more appreciative of her physical regimen and joyous outlook on life, and sex, and whatever was next.

And I’ll end the episode here without going into details. But let’s just say I’m excited to see her again. And it really has nothing to do with “long-range planing.” Nothing. I think I’ve found a pocket of YES with the idea of casual sex. And I think she’s happy with that as well. And there’s not really any need to discuss it. We’ve made plans to get together tomorrow night. And I couldn’t be more satisfied with that.

What are our expectations as we enter into the “hello” date? What if things go really well? Are we prepared to let go if things go “off-map?” That was part of the allure. We were clearly in new territory for both of us. And the relaxed and playful way we engaged in the conversation was mirrored in the way we casually engaged in love making. Even for the first time it was great and free and easy. It might have been partly due to the freedom and skin high we were experiencing. The future wasn’t in question or in play, and something about that, let us drop the pretense and just be together. And that was surprising, magical, and refreshing all at the same time. Something about my rigid “code” was cracked.

Sure, whatever. I mean, why not enjoy ourselves, right?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Get Healthy Before Dating: Avoiding Vengeance Dating Syndrome

OFF-legs

I came out of the gate of my divorce with a fury that was hell-bent on having some fun. It didn’t work out like that, but I joined OK Cupid, eHarmony, and Match.com all at once. I mean, if she doesn’t want me, I might as well get out there again, asap, and see what I’ve been missing. You see, sex had been off the table or intermittent for quite some time in my marriage. Let’s get to my personal definition of the Vengeance Dating Syndrome.

  • You’ve got a score to settle
  • Your lust and desire are raging like a fire
  • All available women seem like opportunities
  • You have no type, just breathing and DDF
  • The best revenge is living well, and having a new girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Dating sites are like window shopping
  • Any opportunity for a first date is a good opportunity
  • You’ll overlook major red flags in pursuit of sex

Okay, so many of those described me as I came into my first summer alone. Or at least “out of my house” and “ring off the finger” divorced. We were still negotiating the terms of surrender, but we were done. So I spent a good bit of time and energy trying to meet and greet any potential women on the three top dating sites.

I was having a hard time maintaining a healthy relationship with myself, why would I want to bring someone else into my fractured life?

And the first thing I learned… Oh my goodness, a boring first date is really a waste of time. For the first few dates I tried to keep my upbeat attitude, even when they showed up looking significantly different from their profile pictures. “Um, when was that glamour shot taken, by the way?”

The second thing I learned… Don’t just accept the date offer to have a date. If you’re just looking to do something, go for a jog, exercise, call a friend. But the supply of potential first dates is endless, the actually first dates “with potential” are much more limited. Have some discretion. You’ll get over the fast and furious attitude pretty quickly, as you learn the romancing requirements today are a bit more stringent.

And the third thing I learned, while in this dating frenzy… Most matches are not matches at all. In a room of a hundred people, I am probably drawn to about 3 potential partners. And of those only one is not married. Online dating has the same sort of mix. Of the 2,000 “available” women in my demographic and within 50-miles of my home, I am interested in about 20. And of those 20, just reading the profile I can tell we’re not even close. And after a few emails, if they don’t respond, it’s obvious either a. I’m not their cup of tea; or b. they are way too cute and thus too busy to even pay attention to my message.

Women have a very different experience in online dating. A woman I went for a glass of wine with last week told me her inbox is overflowing every night. She can’t even keep up with all the offers. Of course most of them are creepy, classless, oafs who are looking to hook up, but even the nice ones have to take a number and get in line.

I’ve had two dates that were the result of a woman reaching out to me first. In four years (not continuous, mind you) I’ve had TWO. And it’s not that I don’t get an occasional LIKE, or FLIRT, or WINK. I get about 2 -3 unsolicited interactions per week. But most of them are WAY OFF THE MARK of what I am looking for. Then I wonder, oh my, am I that far off when I message a woman who is 10 years younger than me? Probably.

So the vengeance thing is a bad idea. And the being in a hurry thing, doesn’t really work with most women. And, in my case, I am not willing to spend all of my free week nights going for coffee with women that are marginally compatible. But back in the summer of escape velocity, I tried and tried and tried. It was exhausting.

The summer of lust became the summer of fizzle. No sex. No kissing. Nada. And it was a year-or-so later before I fired up the profiles and tried again.

The fourth thing I learned, in letting go of my attitude, was that I was not ready to date. I was still grieving my divorce. I was reeling and lonely on the nights without my kids, and I was looking for a distraction, and maybe some sex. I got none of the above. My tolerance for wasting time on an impossible first date as about as positive as my attitude towards reality tv. I just don’t get it. And the online dating trap was a poor distraction.

I did have a couple near misses in those early months. And one, was so close, she even gave me her number in the parking lot and mentioned maybe just coming over and hanging out, watching a movie or something. But I was too eager and my first email, the next day, sort of freaked her out. I’ll never forget the first line of her email.

“Slow your roll.”

I had never heard the phrase, but I knew exactly what she was saying. And she never allowed a second date, or a movie night to happen. I’m not sure I was too far over the top, but I did write her a poem. And even though I disclaimed the romantic part of it, as just a poem, she was completely wigged-out. My first near miss.

And there were a few more near misses, but what I really realised was that I was in no condition to date anyone. I was having a hard time maintaining a healthy relationship with myself, why would I want to bring someone else into my fractured life? I answered my own frustration by shutting down all of my profiles. The summer of lust became the summer of fizzle. No sex. No kissing. Nada. And it was a year-or-so later before I fired up the profiles and tried again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Deal Breakers, Red Flags, and Hand Grenades: Relationship Building 101

OFF-mermaid-split

There are a number of red flags (issues) when you’re dating relationship begins to move towards a Relationship. Here are 8 indicators and warning lights to keep you on your toes when you are evaluating a potential match. Once the dating has gone beyond the 4 – 6 dates and you are beginning to get really comfortable with each other, this is when the deeper relationship issues might begin to creep out of the closet, like old skeletons.

Walk away from the burning building slowly and without panic. You didn’t cause the fire, and you certainly can cure the fire starter.

Learn from your previous mistakes in dating or marriage. You probably have well-learned responses to some of these issues, that worked for you in the past. Listen to what this person is saying and what they are doing. And then make your own decisions about the viability of the relationship. If you want a relationship it will take work. With too many of these issues still in-play, you might not want to put in the effort and relentless bridgebuilding it takes to maintain a wobbly fit. “But it feels so good, sometimes.” I can hear myself say it. Damn. I’m sorry about that. Listen. Evaluate. And when things keep showing up for repair, consider mending your fishing gear.

1. You’ve got to figure out the collective goal. Where are you going? Not the timing or the plan to get there, but you need to make sure you are on the same page.

2. Dealing with disappointments and conflicts. So, let’s say you’ve got a “date” planned and all the preparations have been made, anticipation anticipated… And something happens, and you can’t make the date. Of course there are hurt feelings, and of course there are repairs to be made. Can you make them? Can you move on and reset for the next “date” or does this first miss become a harbinger of dramas yet to come?

3. Kids and Parenting and All That. Okay, so what if the kid eats like an animal when you are with your potential? Not bad manners, but exaggerated bad manners? Eating habits that embarrass you a bit when the waiter comes by? That could be an issue in the long run. How your friend parents can tell a lot about their level of maturity. The health of their relationship with the child, and the ex. All of these things factor into the bargain. If their parenting rules and regulations are out-of-bounds, well, consider what it indicates. (I’m not a psychologist and I don’t play one on my blog.)

It’s best to bless former date, wish them well, and step back into the fishing boat.

4. Flexibility. How good is this person at adapting to different situations, different levels of affection, and even the spaces in-between that are bound to happen? How is the silence between you? Do you begin to wonder what is wrong when they get quiet? Does their texting drop from 5 a day to 0? Or 10 a day to 1? If you get the sinking feeling, you might listen to that. You might be right. You know how intuition served you well in your previous marriage? Well your holy-crap-whats-wrong-now radar might still be on high alert, but that doesn’t mean you can discount the warning blips and pings.

5. Fights Fair, Stay Present, Doesn’t Generalize. I now that’s a lot. But goodness grief, we’re adults, mid-life adults, we should know how to fight fair. Disappointments and disagreements come and go, but the second the potential whips out the “I just don’t think we’re going to work out.” Or, “You’re always blowing me off. It’s always about what you want to do.” Listen for “always” that’s the word of choice for generalizations. Try and stop them when they come up. “Are you trying to say that I’m always late?” for example, if you are late for the first time and it causes a ruckus. Arguments don’t need to escalate into shouting matches. “I’m mad with you” doesn’t have to turn into “Maybe it’s just too difficult for two single parents to be in a relationship.” Wow, really. That’s pretty much an ultimatum. An ending statement. You might hear the “Get the hell out of dodge” message and move on.

The close woman, the smart and smiling woman, needs to go back to her isolation, and you, need to continue your quest for healthy and happy potential dates.

6. Stays Positive and Works Towards a Solution. Too many times we’ve been the caretaker. Listen for the needy, the wounded, the moaning. And then decide if you’re ready for another relationship where you are trying to take care of the wounded or explosive partner. “You always try to say I’m the one with the problems,” when shouted at high volume, sort of makes its own point, don’t you think?

7. The Grass on Your Side of the Fence. If you want a relationship, even in the face of signs in the first six items, you’re in fairly deep. Tread lightly. Perhaps you are one of those, “Grass is actually pretty green right here, honey–come look.” people. Be careful, you’re leaning into a dark forest if things continue to be rough. Sure you REALLY DIG this person, and sure you’re willing to go for 110% effort, but watch your overly optimistic attitude when things keep spinning into difficulties.

8. When you get really close, watch out. Often insecure people will sabotage things just when there is the time or moment for even more closeness. Say you’ve had a date planned for weeks, and you’re finally to the big evening. THEN, surprisingly (or is it?) some minor miscommunication blows the whole thing into an issue. Suddenly, and without much warning (if you’ve been ignoring the earlier steps and signs), the whole date/weekend/trip is off. And of course, you’ve screwed it all up. Just when this person is feeling the most comfortable, if they are afraid of closeness, they will toss a hand grenade into the mix just to see how you react. It’s like an acid test. “Oh you’re really digging me, well see how you handle this little love bomb.”

And sometimes you really do have to cut bait and go fishing again. The close woman, the smart and smiling woman, needs to go back to her isolation, and you, need to continue your quest for healthy and happy potential dates. All this wallowing in the issues is too hard and too soon. When the big bombs show up early, even if the chemistry and sexual heat are there, beware of the hand grenades and land mines. You can’t prepare for them or sniff them out. But sometimes, your old “husband’s in trouble” alarms will still tip you off to what’s in progress.

Walk away from the burning building slowly and without panic. You didn’t cause the fire, and you certainly can cure the fire starter. It’s best to bless former date, wish them well, and step back into the fishing boat. Sadly, sometimes, even with a ton of potential, there’s just nothing else to be done.

[Funny note: So mermaids kill men when they take them under, right? I guess some nice ones saved me as well. Interesting metaphor for relationships.]

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

see the poem of the night: dark woundings of my own

< back to On Dating Again index

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image: mermaid, +gAbY+, creative commons usage


My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

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Step 4 of AA: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Today is a day of reflection. I am examining what I’m doing here on The Off Parent. Assessing the damage and progress of my self-observation, self-obsession, self-centered divorce blog. Let’s see if we can get to the heart of the matter.

  1. Strive to cut deep into the pain and healing of divorce recovery.
  2. Express anger and hurt without blaming the other person.
  3. Eliminate cynicism.
  4. Always go for the truth, my truth, the painful truth.
  5. Protect the innocent through anonymity and discretion.
  6. Write for my own personal journey and healing, if there is a reader that’s fine, but I am not writing for anyone but myself.
  7. Lift my psychology out of the hurt and sadness of depression and towards the healing and recovery for all the members of my family.
  8. Do no harm.
  9. Take on no more shame.
  10. Leave this discussion behind in favor of the next love and romance in my life.

Those are my goals. I’m not sure if I hit the mark with 100% of what is left here, but that was (is) my intention. I have progressed from a confused and angry soon-to-be-ex-husband to a hopeful and romantic single father. That’s the ultimate goal, and for that I give thanks.

Writing is therapy.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

For me, when I write down an experience, I begin to understand it in new ways. I find common threads with other experiences in my life. I hear echoes of past hurts. I recognise the hopeful little boy who survived a crappy divorce and has now grown into a divorce and family of my own. And here on these pages, sometimes, I process the hard stuff, I leave behind puddles of blood and anger that I no longer need. I am discarding these stories as fast as I can write them. Discharging the energy they might still hold on my emotional life, by putting down the bones of truth, as I remember it.

I am not writing for you.

I am glad you are here. I have gotten a lot of support and love through the four years that I have been writing this blog. I have been amazed by some of the comments, troubled by some of the misunderstandings, and encouraged to keep digging for gold. Digging for the heart of joy that is still inside that needs encouragement to hope and dream of loving again.

And I have found the language for that love again. I am writing aspirational love poems. There are still a few divorce poems, but for the most part, this blog has transformed from angry/divorce/rant to relationship/love/discovery. Sure, there will always be flares of anger and sadness when managing the ongoing life of a single parent, but there are also great wins and joys that I am determined to celebrate here, right along side the struggle.

Next Steps

As I continue to change and challenge myself in the coming years, I hope this blog will continue to evolve with me. As I do find that next relationship, I hope that I can write with care and tenderness as “we” this woman and I, journey down the next road of our lives together. Or maybe that will be a different blog. I don’t know. And I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself, here, or in my relationships.

As I grow and parent this blog will still be the rally point for my emotional triumphs and struggles. And as I struggle with depression, or employment difficulties, I will also try to pull back the armor and release the dragons that still loom ahead for me.

In all cases, I thank you for coming along for the journey thus far. I encourage you to start with the INDEX and read chronologically from the beginning. Or jump to any subject or thread that interests you at this time in your life. And if you have a comment, I value the feedback of my readers more than you can imagine. So tell me.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

Final note: Why why why write about this painful stuff? My kids were 5 and 7 when my then-wife decided for all of us that she was done with this marriage and wanted to move on to some other configuration. We’re still reeling from the fallout. Not all of it has been bad, but all of it has been transformative. I give thanks that she had the courage to step into the unknown and make the choice she thought was right for her and thus for all of us. Whatever the motivation or past, we are now a family in divorce. We have commitments and connections that will never cease between all of us. And in my attempts to heal myself I hope to continue to be a positive influence in my kids and ex’s lives. We’re in this together. Let’s evolve to a higher discussion.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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references: The 12-Steps of AA – wikipedia

image: practice, fabio bruna, creative commons usage


Dating A Divorced Dad: We Might Be Good For Each Other

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This isn’t a mating call post, but more a look at some of the ways divorced dads are cool, flexible, and likely to understand divorced moms.

FIRST: Let’s compare notes on our kids. We’ve got our priorities straight. Our kids come first, our dates come second. Got it? Good. I don’t think any single parents will ever need to debate this. Now, dates without kids, or even parents who’s kids are long out of the nest, might present a bit more of a problem. There is an imbalance of time. I do spend more time with my kids than with my date. But, that’s only while we’re getting to know each other. But let’s stop right there and not get ahead of ourselves. We are talking about dating, after all.

So if this partner has their act together, even after a divorce, they’re probably pretty flexible and understanding when it comes to compromise and negotiating wants and needs.

SECOND: Let’s compare notes on our exes. I can lend a sympathetic ear to your stories about your dickish-ex. No problem, I’ve go my ex-y who can be a handful from time to time. I’m likely to take your side in any debate. And if you just need a sounding board, I’m here to say, “Wow, he really is a dick.”

THIRD: Let’s just say sex was getting less and less frequent and a bit less fun towards the end of my marriage. So, to say I’m hungry would be a bit of an understatement. Attentive might be a better word. I am so ready to make you feel good. Sure, we can get to me in a minute, but let’s just enjoy you for the moment.

FOURTH: By this time, even with a divorce and child support, we should have the money thing dialed in. Sure, there may be some setbacks (heck, I’m in the middle of the biggest one of my adult life right now, but…) along the money trail, but a partner with some history probably has found a way to make a living.

FIFTH: A well-balanced partner with kids and an ex has learned to get rid of the drama and strife. Divorce is one of the biggest stress potentials of our adult lives. So if this partner has their act together, even after a divorce, they’re probably pretty flexible and understanding when it comes to compromise and negotiating wants and needs. An unbalanced divorced parent is pretty easy to identify as well. Listen. Are they complaining about their ex? Do they have more drama than most people? If so you can move right along. But if your divorced partner still has a healthy sense of humor, they are likely to have a positive approach to navigating the path of developing a relationship.

If we can build our alignment of priorities around our kids health and happiness, then we can both relax when we are able to find time alone as a couple.

SIXTH: We’re going to understand if you’re too tired for the dinner and dancing plans. So you want to curl up on the couch, watch a romantic comedy and order chinese food? Sure, we get it. We’ll even rub your feet during the movie.

Relationships are not easy. But a divorced dad has a lot of experience under his belt that might come in handy as you too are dealing with parenting and dickish-ex issues. I’m pretty certain my next relationship will be with a divorced mom.

If we can build our alignment of priorities around our kids health and happiness, then we can both relax when we are able to find time alone as a couple. Perhaps that scarcity of time can build and sustain some of the honeymoon phase of the courtship. There is something quite motivating about sexual hunger for someone you are getting to know. Use that energy, prioritize your parenting, and have some fun. After all, we’re still talking about dating, we’re not going to get married or anything. (see What’s This About: Marriage?)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: always kiss me goodnight, courtney carmody, creative commons usage