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An intern at work passed away unexpectedly this weekend. I didn’t know him or work directly with him, but I know what his family is going through and it brought to mind my own experiences with grief and loss. The people who reached out in sympathy and support… and the people who did not.

friendship-quotes-marcus-tullius-cicero-5754

People seem to have a difficult time nowadays comiserating with a friend or co-worker when they’ve lost a loved one. They tell themselves they don’t want to be a bother, that bringing it up will cause further pain. They talk themselves out of going to the viewing, or the funeral, or the memorial service because they didn’t really know the person who passed away, and that surely such a thing is only for immediate friends and family of the deceased.

All of that is nonsense.

While the viewing, funeral, and memorial service are for paying your respects to the deceased, they are also for paying your respects to the survivors. With this death, your friend or co-worker has one less person in the world who cares about them and that hurts. Most of the joys in life are about human connections and the people you love and who love you, so when one of those connections end there’s a huge hole that cannot be refilled. If you reach out to support them in this difficult time, with some kind words or better yet your presence at one of the services, you reaffirm your own connection with them and let them know you care about them. You’re still there.

Life is a wonderful gift, but pain and grief are the price of admission. Friendship and compassion can help make the highs even higher while making the lows easier to bear. Don’t talk yourself out of reaching out to a connection in your life in their time of loss. Let them know that while they may have lost someone, there are still people in the world who care and you’re one of them.

What do you think?

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The vast majority of Valentine’s Days in my life as an adult have been spent single, and yet I’ve always loved the holiday.  If you’re a regular reader – and if you are, I apologize for being mostly absent these past months (more on that later) – you know I’m a hopeless romantic.  If I’m with someone, I like to give her little mini-Valentines throughout the year (just goofy “I love ya” stuff), but on Valentine’s Day it’s time to make a special effort, and I love it.  The years when I’m not with someone, I usually spend Valentine’s Day thinking about past loves and daydreaming about some future love yet to have walked into my life.  Whatever loneliness I feel is typically drowned out by the eternal optimism that is my modus operandi.

This time around… I’m not feeling it.  At.  All.  In fact, all the shiny happy couples that I’m constantly bouncing against throughout each day and night, in person and on social media, have become oppressively irritating, rubbing away my optimism smile by smile.  Valentine’s Day this year just takes that irritation I’ve been feeling and turns it up to 11.

I think the shift in feelings is due to the realization that being alone is something I’ve got to live with for at least 3-4 more years due needing to work full and part-time jobs to take care of my kids and maintain my house (once the kids are in high school my financial obligations ease a bit).  So between working and the time I get to visit with my kids, that usually leaves one day or evening a week that I’m free to be social.  How am I supposed to meet and court someone special one weekend day/evening a week?  I tried and it doesn’t work.

So add that on top of the 4 years since my ex and I split, and the 4-5 years of being emotionally alone while married, and that’s a long fucking time.

I think my “glass half-full” optimism has always been driven by the hope that things are going to get better soon.  And while life is full of ups and downs, in general I do think things generally improve.  I’m happy with a lot of different parts of my life.  But recently I’ve had to admit to myself that romance, love, partnership is just not in the cards—that desolate stretch of emptiness goes  on for the foreseeable future.  And that fucking sucks.  It pisses me off, and makes it tough to maintain the smiles and optimism that I’m known for.

I started this blog when my ex and I separated as a way to mentally keep me from becoming that bitter divorcé that so many people fall into after breaking up with their spouse.  I used it to document and reflect on past loves, and to ponder what future love might bring.  Well, after three and a half years of writing the well of actual real life love experiences is tapped out (not that it was very deep to being with).  And except for one all too brief exception, there has been no new love experiences to write about… and it’s become hard to even imagine when or if future love will come around.  I would write “My Ideal Woman…” posts as an ode to a future love I knew would come around eventually.  Now, I’m pretty sure she’s not.  Not for a long, long time.

This blog was born out of optimism towards women, love and relationships.  That optimism is gone now.  That’s why I haven’t really been feeling up to writing.  Well actually, I’ve still wanted to write, but each time I sat down to write something it’s always been negative.  People don’t want to read negative shit, especially not from me—I’ve always felt that my positivity is what drew people to read my blog.  But I felt that I owed you guys some sort of explanation since I know from my own experiences following blogs it kinda sucks when they just… stop.

I don’t want things to stop here… I’ll do my best to think of interesting and positive things to write about going forward… but the source material for most of what I’ve written here so far is a dried up well, so let’s keep our fingers crossed I can find something else worth writing about.

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The last post I wrote about my first date in forever, how much we clicked and how much I enjoyed meeting her.  Since then, there’s been some good developments and a not-so-good development.

On the good developments, we had our first kiss the second time we got together and it was wonderful.  She’s a great kisser, and it had been so long since I’d really kissed someone that I floated home that night.  Did I mention it was wonderful?  The third time we got together, we shared another goodnight kiss that left me feeling all warm and tingly.  Yeah, yeah– maybe it’s not macho gushing about kissing, but I’ve made no secret how much I love kissing (…She’d Savor Smooching, 3 First Kisses).  I even lamented one time being bummed by the thought that if I got run over by a bus one day that my ex would be my Last Kiss.  Thankfully, that concern has been erased.

Our fourth get-together was cancelled because she was not feeling well, and unfortunately for the next ten days my insane schedule left few opportunities for us to see each other, and on those days she had prior commitments.  So our next date was going to be this Friday, and I was really looking forward to seeing her again.  I considered some options and wracked my brain for something particularly fun to do to make up for the time we’d spent apart.

Unfortunately, that’s where the not-so-good development comes in.  Over the course of a few emails back and forth we converse a bit about what we’re looking for in a relationship, and she tells me that we’re not really working out for her.  She’s looking for someone who can go and do many of the things she likes to go and do, but my time constraints make that difficult.  I work two jobs to support my kids and have visitation with them as often as I can.  Her kids are grown and on their own, and she’s fully enjoying the empty-nest phase of her life.

It totally bummed me out to hear but I could totally understand.  She’s a great woman and deserves to have a partner who can spend more time with her than I can.  I appreciated her honesty, and was glad she was bold enough to speak up about it sooner rather than later, and not just let linger, building up resentment along the way.  She said she still enjoyed my company and hoped that we could still get together as friends, and I was glad to hear that because I really liked chatting with her about a wide variety of things we both enjoyed talking about.  I proposed we still get together Friday, meeting at this cool Mexican restaurant that makes this incredible fresh guacamole right at your table, to share guac over margaritas, and she agreed.  You can never have too many friends, and she’s a friend who likes to go and do, which are particularly good to find in this stage of my life.

So what now?  I don’t know.  One worry I had about getting back into dating was concern about my time constraints, and that was the very thing that sank this relationship before it really got going.  She mentioned that dating me was like having a long-distance relationship, which seems like a pretty good analogy.  Maybe that sort of thing will be appealing to someone down the road, someone who might have similar time constraints as me.  At least we wouldn’t have the travel expense of a long-distance relationship!

At this point I think I’ll get back to checking in on OKCupid, maybe modify my profile a bit to emphasize my time-constraints to make it clear what I can and cannot offer at this stage in my life.  Sure, interest in my profile will likely shrink further, but it’s only fair to potential partners who run across me.

I’ll also keep trying to expand my social circles, find people who want to go and do stuff when I have the time to go and do.  And I’ll focus on my health, exercise and healthy eating.  Who knows what the future may bring?

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Not long ago I wrote a post about giving OKCupid (an online dating service) a try and being quite pleased with it compared to some of the other options out there, and I had a few comments from folks asking if I’d gotten any dates from there yet… which normally would have struck me as a little premature since I’d just signed up and created my profile just two weeks prior to writing about it.  But, to my extreme delight… the answer is, yes– I did indeed meet someone super-cool on OKCupid and made plans to meet!

OKC stars

Four or five days after I set up my profile I got notified by OKCupid that someone had given my profile 4-5 stars… and I didn’t even realize that you could give a profile stars!  I’d gotten a fair number of visitors since setting up my profile, but I suppose this is how someone kinda nudges you and says “hey, I kinda like what I see.”  Anyway, I went and checked out her profile, saw a picture of a lovely woman, and then began to read her profile.  It was surreal… so many things we had in common, she almost seemed too good to be true, but then I realized– I suppose this is what OKCupid is set up to do, match up people with similar interests.  My age, divorced, has kids, similar tastes in music and a love for live music, similar tastes in TV shows, movies, likes to go to festivals, the vibe from her profile felt so similar to mine, on and on… so I went ahead and gave her profile five stars back!

OKCupid then said something like “well, you’ve shown interest in each other… why not send a message?”  Well, why not indeed?  So I sent her a message… and then a little chat window popped up from her– I didn’t even realize we could chat on here!  So we chatted a bit before I had to go, then she answered my message, and then we went back and forth with the messages a few times, then exchanged email addresses and cell phone numbers, moved over to emails and texts and pretty much were in daily contact until one Thursday evening when I thought… well, she obviously likes my profile and likes corresponding back and forth… I realized it would probably be pretty easy to just coast along like that for a while, but… why was I on OKCupid to begin with?  The answer:  to find someone who might be interested in me as more than just friends, so I decided to go ahead and ask if she’d like to go on a date and meet on the following Monday.

She was up for a date, but said she had plans Monday.  She’s a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, and she had tickets to go see a documentary called Springsteen & I that was showing at this cool dinner & movie venue called CinéBistro where you can order a yummy dinner (or appetizers) and adult beverages you enjoy while you watch a movie in their big comfy chairs.  However, she didn’t have anyone yet to go with, so she asked if I wanted to go?  Sounded fun to me, I offered to pay for dinner and we called it a date.

A date!  The notion thrilled and scared me both.  I mean, it had to have been nearly 20 years since I’d gone on an official “date,” and even then I couldn’t really recall any specifics as to when that might have been.  Prior to my ex and I getting together many years ago, I was the master of the “hang out/pseudo-date” and very rarely was so bold to flat-out call it a date.  Is it any surprise all too many of those encounters ended with me in the Friend Zone?  This time I wanted to make it clear– while a new friend who shared as many interests as we did would certainly be very welcome in my life, my first intention was more than that.

The whole weekend I felt like I was vibrating at a different frequency from everyone around me, and was pretty sure there must have been a goofy smile on my face constantly.  I must have been super-annoying to my friends.  The undercurrent of nervousness was pretty much overwhelmed by my excitement though, and when Monday rolled around I could hardly concentrate on work waiting for the time when I could drive out to meet her.

I pondered what to say or do when we first met.  How novel and new this all was– we’d had this great connection online, gotten to know each other in a lot of ways already before we even met.  I mean, it was sort of a blind date, but we weren’t entirely blind– we’d seen each other’s pictures, read each other’s profiles, checked out each other’s questions, and sent a bunch of emails back and forth.  She was like an odd mix of a good friend I had the hots for and a total stranger.  What do I do when we meet?  Hugs or handshakes?  Do I kiss her goodnight?

I quickly realized I could overthink myself into a total tizzy, so I just settled down and tried to just roll with it.

We met about 30 minutes before the show outside the movie place, and then went inside and chatted a bit before they seated us.  Any sense of nervousness melted away almost immediately and I felt totally at ease with her.  The friendship we’d built on common interests and emails made it completely comfortable.  We ordered Cobb Salads and beer, and then watched the movie.  It was a really good film– lots of humor, great musical performances, and it left me regretting never taking the opportunity to see a Bruce Springsteen show before.  He’s obviously a great performer and musician.

Afterwards, even though it was quite late she was amicable to going around the corner to a nearby restaurant/bar and grabbing another beer or two to talk some more.  The time flew by and it grew quite late, and we finally headed back out to our cars.  We talked about getting together again soon… and there was a brief moment where I thought she might want me to kiss her goodnight!  Was I reading that right?  I certainly wanted to kiss her, but I felt a moment of panic when I realized just how long it had been since my last “first kiss” and worried my game was so off, so rusty, that I was misreading the signs.  I went in for the safe hug instead… and drove off kicking myself just a little bit.

Still, overall I thought the date went extremely well, and we texted each other when we got home saying how much we enjoyed meeting each other.  I was curious if some of the chemistry and flirtation that had been going on online would change a bit now that we’d met in person, but to my delight it did not.

We’ve gotten together twice since then, and we’ve discovered that it’s going to be a bit of a challenge finding time to spend together– she’s just as busy as I am and has a really full life of her own.  Which is fine– there’s no need to rush things, it’s been nice just getting to know each other bit by bit.

I will say that I’m now a big believer in OKCupid.  A program that can match me up with someone like her is alright in my book!

 

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I’ve written a couple times before about online dating (Online Chemistry, Research Paper), and while I’ve subscribed to a few dating sites, none of them have really led to any actual dates.  For one thing, most seem to demand a fee for service to actually interact with anyone more than just on a superficial level… which is fine, people are in business to make money.  And to be honest, I hadn’t really found anyone interesting enough who was also interested in me enough to make me want to pull the trigger and pull out my credit card to subscribe.  And so I had really stopped going to any of them for the past few months.

Recently two different podcasts I listen to brought up OK Cupid.  I’m not sure why I didn’t check into the site before — I seem to recall reading someone saying that it catered to a much younger crowd maybe? — but the folks I was listening to spoke very favorably about the site, so I took it as a sign maybe I should check them out.

I’m glad I did– I really like what I found there.  For one thing, there is no subscriber fee other than a “premium” version with a apparently a few more bells and whistles, additional search capacities, but the free side is still very functional and useful, letting you chat with whomever you want (provided they want to chat).  Much like the other sites, you set up a profile telling a little bit about yourself and what you’re looking for, load some pictures… but the part I really like about OKCupid are the questions it asks of you that drives its matching engine.  There’s a minimum amount of questions to answer to prime the matching engine — I think around 20 — but the questions are pretty basic stuff, yes/no or a few multiple choice, and then you get to choose which of the available choices are acceptable in your match, and then you get to rate how important the question is to you (ranked from Irrelevant to Mandatory).  There’s even a little text box where you can expand on your answer.

So you start with 20 or so… but there are thousands and thousands of questions to answer!  Some are silly, some are deep, some are dumb, but most are pretty fun.  I’ve answered over 300 questions so far and there are thousands more.  I could see spending all afternoon answering these questions.

OKC_Question

Here’s one I haven’t answered yet…  I think it’s a tough one.  I mean, first I thought about me — what do I want to do with my life?  I mean, I can think of goals, I can think of dreams… The question seems to suggest that a person is either driven or aimless, and I don’t personally feel I fall strictly into either slot but rather somewhere in between.  Who am I to judge someone else in that regard?  See, the questions are interesting!

Anyway, once you answer a bunch of questions, OKCupid’s matching engine figures out where you fall on various personality axes.  They even have a “personality” chart where you can either see how someone else compares to you along those axes, or how you line up among the average OKCupid user.  Here’s my chart and how I compare to the average:

OKC_Personality

On the one hand, this chart really flatters!  It says that I am (or rather, “might be” — hee, I like the legalese qualifier there), compared to the average, More Laid-Back, More Literary, More Cool, More Compassionate, More Kind… awww, shucks OKCupid you’re making me blush!  And it makes me wonder how in the world does a computer figure out how cool, compassionate or kind someone is from these questions.  See– interesting!

On the other hand though, the length of the bars from the average pushes me out to the margins, which could suggest it might be tough to find a good match out there.  Of course, questions and answers aren’t everything, and there’s a lot to be said for great profile essays and a willingness to chat to get to know each other better.

OKC_States Heat Map

I also got a cool email from OKCupid that sent out this Map of Love “heat map” — showing me the States with a higher density of matches.  As I have always suspected, my outlook on life tends to line up more with West Coasters and New Englanders… but it was nice to see Virginia at least in the right shade.  There just might be hope for me yet! 🙂

OKC_Countries

If I ever have the desire to look for love out of country, OKCupid was even kind enough to let me know where I should go, and where to avoid!

So I’m curious about other people’s experiences with OKCupid.  I’ve only been on two weeks but I really like what I’ve seen!

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My friend Molly pointed me to this great blog written by psychologist Kelly Flanagan and I felt like it most definitely deserved a spot here on My Ideal Woman.  Not only because it perfectly expresses what I’d want to tell my daughter once she gets a little bit older and interested in boys (and I might just print out a copy to give to her), but because the message is a powerful one not just to little girls but all the former little girls out there who find themselves tangled up with unappreciative guys.  I get angry when I hear about this sort of thing too, because it shouldn’t be a woman’s — or either person’s — job to keep your partner interested.  Trust in yourself that you are interesting, and that there are people out there who will find you endlessly interesting… and that you deserve nothing less.

Below is what he so beautifully wrote:

———————-

A Daddy’s Letter to His Little Girl
(About Her Future Husband)

Dear Cutie-Pie,

Recently, your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in the world. Perched at the top of the list was “How to keep him interested.”

It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior.

And I got angry.

Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to “keep him interested.” (more…)

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Father’s Day weekend my daughter was at the beach with a friend, so I got to have some good father/son time with my 10-year-old Aaron.  We had a great time hanging out, playing video games, catching up on Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and eating manly food.  I took him to Outback Steakhouse for the first time, and he loved it!  My daughter did call me Sunday to wish me Happy Father’s Day, and we talked for quite a long time as she told me all the fun stuff she was doing with her friend.

Aaron will be 11 in a little over a month, and he’s got a serious crush on a gal at school and was lamenting not being able to see her all summer.  When school was winding down a few weeks back I told him that the yearbooks they got at the end of the year offered the perfect opportunity to try and stay in touch– when they exchanged books to sign, he could ask for her phone number or give her his number so they could call over the summer.  He flushed red at the suggestion, and said he just couldn’t do that.  Not that I was in any moral high ground there– being too bashful or shy when it came to girls pretty much defined my adolescence and early adulthood.  But quite a few girls I pined for from a distance and never made a move years later would tell me that they always wondered why I didn’t ask them out on a date.  I told Aaron that regrets can really pile up if you let bashfulness rule your life.

Of course, he’s only 10, but still… as a dad I want my son to have much more success with girls and women that I did, and if I can lay some groundwork now before puberty hits and all those hormones and awkward body changes surge through him maybe I can help make things a bit easier for him.

Anyway, this weekend being filled with so much good father/son time, I mentioned to Aaron that part of my job as a father is teach him and impart what wisdom I’ve gained through the years.  “If you have any questions about boys and girls, men and women and their bodies, sex or anything like that, I want you to feel free to ask me anything and I will do my best to give you a good answer.”

He nodded and thought for a few seconds.  “I actually do have a question, Dad,” he said.

My mind raced, wondering what in the world he’d ask me.

“Why do girls try to control you so much?”

I had to laugh… my ten-year-old son, asking such a question?  What sort of girls do they have at his elementary school?  Of course, this is the sort of “mysteries of the universe” question that if I had a real good answer to I could probably write some books and retire a wealthy man.  Aaron is a very bright and perceptive young man, but he’s still only 11 years old, so how to answer him?

“Well,” I said, “perhaps some try to control boys because they don’t feel strong in other areas, maybe they don’t feel physically as strong, or maybe their don’t feel like they have much say in what goes on at home, so trying to exert control over boys gives them that feeling of strength they’re missing.”

“Hmm…”

I thought a few moments more.  “Also, I think sweet guys like you and me, we enjoy making other people happy, and sometimes people will take advantage of that, so whatever girl you like, make sure that she wants to make you happy too, and that you’re not just giving and she’s not just taking.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes, I think so,” he said.  “Thanks, Dad!”

Later, I mentioned this conversation to my roommate, who’s got the experience of having three ex-wives and numerous girlfriends over the years, and he laughed and laughed mightily.  Of course, as grown-up divorced men we could certainly get cynical and dark when it comes to pondering why women try to exert such control over their men, but my son is just starting to tip-toe towards the wonders that the opposite sex hold out to us.  It’s a helluva bumpy ride that lasts a lifetime full of ups and downs, and I want to do my best to give him the tools he needs to hopefully enjoy the trip.  I hope he’ll ask me a lot of these sorts of questions in the coming years.

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