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So this was a fascinating read over at HuffPo, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think” by Johann Hari, who’s authored a book called Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. She spent over three years and traveled 30,000 miles researching her book, and ran across a rather mind-blowing notion:

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

There’s a lot of good stuff in her HuffPo article so I definitely recommend reading it, but I’ll hit on some high lights from what she wrote below, along with my own thoughts.   (more…)

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The most difficult thing about going from being a married dad to a single dad was not sleeping under the same roof as my children every day. Getting them up in the morning, feeding them breakfast, getting them ready for school… and then at night, asking about their day, checking the schoolwork, and finally tucking them in and getting a goodnight kiss… the daily connection with your children is such a blessing, so rejuvenating to the mind and spirit. And most important of all—having access to a hug from someone who loves you whenever you need it is the greatest gift. There are days when the world is beating you down, and you desperately need the balm of a loved one’s arms wrapped around you to let you know it’s okay. When you’re a single dad who’s children don’t live with you, when you have those sorts of days, most of the time you come home to an empty house and just have to deal with being beaten down alone, and hold on for the next visitation when you can finally get the hugs and kisses that you need. My ex often laments about how difficult and busy it is being a single mom, but I would trade places with her in a heartbeat.

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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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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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About two weeks back I was feeling pretty down, and wrote about it here (Feeling Charlie Brown).  I was feeling particularly low about the lack of opportunities for socializing in my life, and while I can certainly entertain myself quite well most of the time, I do have a side of me that craves the kind of human interaction that involves being around people you like being around, who also like being around you.  It’s something that I think a lot of people take for granted, but I can testify there can be paths life takes you down that leaves you with a dearth of those opportunities.

I mean, take the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival that travels around the East Coast and made a stop in Richmond this past weekend.  I’ve written about it here before, and every time I thought about the festival, it just sounded like a helluva good time.  Who wouldn’t want to go?!  Well, apparently the vast majority of my friends, which just left me perplexed, on top of being bummed.

Thank goodness for friend and fellow blogger beautifulmess7, who rode to my rescue!  Even though she had plans with her family for late afternoon, she agreed that a Beer, Bourbon & BBQ festival sounded like a helluva good time and said she’d love to go with me if I didn’t mind getting back in time for her to make family gathering.  The event was open from 2 – 6pm, but I figured if we got there at 2ish and were taking shots (err… samples) of bourbon with some frequency that a couple hours should be plenty of time if we didn’t want to be crawling ourselves out of there.

Cheers

I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  The event was just as fun as I’d hoped it would be, and beautifulmess7 was the perfect partner-in-crime to enjoy it with.  She said it was a lot like wine tasting events, though I suspect a slightly different crowd was here for the bourbon.  I wouldn’t say it was rowdy, but it was definitely lively!

There were a ton of bourbons to sample, and beautifulmess7 ran around and tried each booth right beside me.  Most ranged from decent to delicious, though we did encounter a couple stinkers that actually forced us to dump them out.  There was even a token Vodka booth which felt a little like a fly in the ointment, but my liberal sense of inclusion prevented me from getting too offended by its presence.

BBBBQ04

This certainly seemed like an odd pairing, but… we love dark chocolate and we love bacon… two great tastes that go great together… maybe?  The very first time it hits your taste buds it’s odd… but it quickly grows on you and by the time we left I made sure to pick up a bag.

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Early on there was apparently a place you could get your glass dipped in wax like they do with Maker’s Mark bourbon (see the glasses in the pic above) but we didn’t find out about it until they’d stopped doing it.  We also heard about some sort of clear bourbon that Jim Beam was featuring, that was apparently selling for quite the premium, but we were assured that it just tasted like regular ol’ Jim Beam.  When we went by the Jim Beam booth they’d run out of it.

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I bought this late in the day when I had a good buzz going and my silly-buying-inhibitions were low.  Just seemed like a funny shotglass that I had to own.

The bourbons I recall being particularly yummy:  High West Double Rye (High West makes bourbon out of Utah!), Buffalo Trace Distillery Small Batch, Maker’s Mark (of course), and Knob Creek Rye.  There were others that were good too, but those made an impression through the buzz that crept up on me.  Maybe beautifulmess7 can chime in with some of her faves in the comments?

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These guys had a fun booth with a wheel you could spin for silly little prizes.  Their bourbon however was mediocre.

I have to say it was so nice to have beautifulmess7 there with me.  She was fun, we chatted and laughed the whole time as we waited in line, circulated around, or sat for a bit listening to the live music.  She was more than willing to sample everything with me, and she easily struck up conversations with other festival-goers.  As it got late in the afternoon and we made our way to leave, I could tell she was up for staying longer if she hadn’t had other plans.

We took a taxi ride home with a hugely entertaining cabbie, who was from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and had us both craving seafood by the time he dropped us off.  I got beautifulmess7 a big glass of water and we sat in the AC and cooled off a bit in my living room and chatted while she made sure she was okay for driving.  It was just delightful talking about all sorts of things, a perfect cap to a really nice day.

To add to such a nice weekend, I’d been able to get some bonus time with my kids the night before.  My sister and her kids were coming through town and staying with my step-mom for a couple days, and it had been a really long time since our kids had had “cousin-time” together (she has a daughter and son too, and they’re all around the same ages).  It wasn’t my weekend with the kids, but their mom agreed to let me pick them up and stay the night over at my step-mom’s house.  We had a great time catching up, and I taught my niece and nephew to play Settlers of Cataan with my kids, and helped my 7 year old nephew win the first game.  He was hooked!

So last night before heading to bed, I was just feeling really great and put this up on my Facebook page before letting all the busy-ness and bourbon carry me off to slumber…

Yay

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Okay, so my new healthy eating plan has been going really well, and I’ve got a pretty good routine going with foods that I like… but most of it are things that are easy to prepare and things I can prepare ahead of time and warm up later in the microwave.  And that’s all fine and good…

…But sometimes you’re in the grocery store and see a package of scallops and your mouth starts salivating and your heart speeds up a little faster.  It probably didn’t help that I was a rather hungry at the time (rule of thumb – never go to the grocery store hungry).

I love seafood… I mean really love it.  Shrimp is probably my all-time favorite, but scallops are right up there too, and since they’re a bit more expensive I rarely have scallops.  It’s been so long I can’t even recall when the last time I had scallops was.

Suddenly, I found a package of scallops in my basket.  I recalled that I had some rainbow Swiss chard and broccoli at home (ingredients for my Green Smoothies) that were getting a little wilted, and figured I could toss them in my big fry pan as I saute the scallops.  I then ran across a package of sliced mushrooms, “exotic blend” which had Shiitake, Oyster, and Porcini mushrooms… and I knew my dish was complete.

I would dub thee… Scallops Delight!

So I added a little olive oil to my fry pan, tossed in the mushrooms, broccoli and chard to get them started, added the scallops, tossed in a little garlic powder, pepper, and Italian seasonings, and after about 10-15 minutes it was ready for my plate.  I added a sweet potato and looked at my dinner.

I just had to take a picture…

Yep, I made this

Yep, I made this

Looks good, huh?  I plugged the recipe into Calorie Count and it wasn’t bad at all, just 560 calories and fit right in with my plan.

I could have easily split this in two and had a side salad to round out the meal.  I had a brief moment of thinking “damn shame I don’t have a special lady to share this with!”  But then I dug in and just delighted in satisfying my seafood craving.

Do you like seafood?  It was easy to make, go indulge yourself 🙂

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A couple months back an old friend had gotten in touch, saying she was going to be in town visiting some friends and wanted to know if I could meet up with her so we could catch up.  I met J.L. many years ago when she was the freshman roommate with my sister, and instantly liked her.  She was brainy, quiet, a bit shy, and totally adorable and attractive without even realizing it.  My sister– who was a bit of a wild child at the time — kinda brought her out of her shell, and a few weekends a year I visited my sister we all would party and have a great time.  J.L. and I struck up a friendship and wrote letters to each other for a little while.  I even still have a picture catching us on a quick midnight kiss for New Years.

Eventually J.L. and my sis took different paths and didn’t hang out so much, and I lost touch with J.L. (though my sister kept in touch).  Fast forward a couple decades and now we have Facebook, wonderfully getting us all back in touch with friends we lost track of over the years.  When I saw J.L. post something on my sister’s wall, I sent her a friends request, hoping that she’d friend me back, and was thrilled when she did.  I was curious to see where life had taken her.

Well, turns out that J.L. is still brainy — she just got her doctorate — and is still totally adorable and attractive.  We love lots of the same books (and sent each other book recommendations), have the same politics, share a similar sense of humor… in short, just a really awesome woman.  So I was really looking forward to meeting up with her before — not for possible romance (for those of you wondering), she has a boyfriend — but just because, as I talked about before (Paradigm Shift) I want to expand my circle of friends and JL is Good People!  Not only will it be great getting reacquainted, but who knows who I might meet through her?

Unfortunately our meet-up falls through… I had wanted to take the kids to see The Hobbit, and it turned out the best time for them ran right into the meet-up time with JL… I texted her when we were done, but she was winding down and wouldn’t be up too much longer.  “We can try again another time,” she said.

So it looks like next time will be… this Saturday!  We’ll be meeting for dinner to talk and catch up — for me it’s Splurge Saturday, so we’ll be going to Plaza Azteca for yummy Mexican food and maybe a margarita– and then later I’m going to meet her at a bar to watch her boyfriend’s band perform (he actually lives nearby).  I love watching live music — and occasionally performing it!

And to make things extra intriguing, she recently left this in the comments of one of my Facebook status updates:

I need to mosey over to your blog. BTW, I’ve a gal you might wanna meet. *GRIN* We’ll talk … I’ll be good.

My response, naturally…

Hee hee, the plot thickens….

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The Reboot: Bennie 3.0

Sorry I haven’t written much lately.  I guess I haven’t been overly inspired…  Losing my father and both my grandmothers in the span of four months the tail end of last year really knocked the wind out of my sails, and then recently I had a health scare regarding someone who is very close to me (and who seems to be coming through it okay, fingers crossed and prayers for continued success).

While family and friends have been a blessing of support during these times, not having a significant other to lean on for comfort and strength has me feeling particularly lonely and sad, which in turn has made it tough to blog “on theme.”

When I started this blog, I had just gone through a split with my wife, and rather than become bitter about marriage and women, I wanted to use the blog to focus on what I loved about women, to be a source of positivity and joy.   Memories of past relationships have been a treasure trove of inspiration for quite a few posts over the life of this blog… but I’m beginning to feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel.  I really haven’t had all that many relationships so the pickings were slim to begin with.

No… what I really need is to make new memories!

But then I look at myself, look at my life and wonder:  how in the world can I really expect to find anyone willing to date me?  I’m overweight, out of shape, and between working a full and part-time job, and visitation with my kids, there’s very little time I could spend on dates.  I’ve got some discretionary spending, but supporting two kids ain’t cheap.  Plus, my “good” car (I also have an old van) is a hand-me-down from my ex that’s good for shuttling kids around but isn’t really something that would impress a date.

Now, I know I have a lot of positives going for me and have a lot to offer the right woman, but I have to be honest with myself and question whether a good woman would take a chance on me, given the relative downsides I listed above.  The other day it occurred to me:  I’ve got quite a few female friends… so why have they not tried to set me up with any of their single women friends?  The answer:  why would they?

Last week I finally recovered from a really nasty cold, and Thursday I was feeling so much better… and it reminded me of the times in my life where I decided to take my health more seriously, began to eat right and exercised… and once I’d begun to do that, the feeling you get from feeling so much better…  it makes you wonder why in the world you stopped to begin with.  I latched on to that feeling, and decided to get back on the program.  For real this time.  If I want to make new memories, I need to be the kind of man a woman wants to be with.  I’m a good man, kind and generous, smart… really the only thing (I think) holding me back is a healthy body.

I’ve done a lot of diets over the years, and read a lot about health.  I knew what works and what I wanted to do.  So Saturday I planned it out, splurged a bit on some “bad” food, and then this past Sunday kicked it off!  I’ll detail my new way of eating in another post soon, but as of Day 4 everything is going according to plan… and I’m pretty stoked!

Regarding the time and money… well, I have managed to shift my life around to the point that I have each Friday and Saturday off.  Every other Saturday I get my kids, but that still leaves Fridays and every other Saturdays to spend time with future lady friends.  Money… well, that’s not something I see changing for a while, but I’m pretty creative in finding fun things to do that don’t cost a whole lot of money.  I’m not going to be anyone’s sugar-daddy that’s for sure, but I think we can have some fun.

As far as my car… well, this year I do plan on getting a new car.  Or at least, a car that’s “new to me” just not too old.  Assuming my current car holds out, I’m looking at July or so for the purchase… and when I go shopping, I’ll certainly be looking for something that I can be proud to pull up in front of a future date’s house.

So anyway… I suppose the focus of this blog is going to shift a bit to be more about my reboot, becoming “Bennie 3.0” and my quest to becoming the kind of guy my women friends want to set their friends up with.  Should be a fun ride!  What do you think?

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“I’m not saying I would put a stop to the project, because I’m sort of a nice guy. When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’”

I was reading a recent interview with Stephen King where he shares the news that he’s writing a sequel of sorts to The Shining, one of my favorite King books — well, one of my favorite horror books, period!  I wrote a blog post about being a horror fan before, so if you’ve read me a while you probably already know that.

Anyway, I’m reading the interview, smiling at the always amusing and down-to-earth King, and getting excited about the notion of seeing where Danny Torrance is now, 30 years after the horrible things that happened to him as a boy at the Overlook.  And then I get to the quote above, and it gets me thinking about the difference between men and women… in other words, grist for a long overdue blog post!

First off, I found it interesting that King’s Mom would say such a thing to her son as a kid!  It makes me wonder if the anecdote is accurate given how memory works as years go by– god bless him, but it’s been quite a while since King was a kid.  But let’s assume she did say that to a very young Stephen… wouldn’t he respond with “What do you mean?”

And what would Mrs. King say to that question?

The context of the quote was an interview question concerning Warner Brothers potentially developing a prequel to The Shining based on material cut from the beginning of the novel King wrote.  King doesn’t want that to happen — he doesn’t explain why, but we can assume than as an artist he decided to cut that part out of his book and likely feels that his creative decision should stand — but he mentioned that he isn’t sure he’d put up a fight to stop Warner Brothers from going forward with the project.  Then he says:

“I’m not saying I would put a stop to the project, because I’m sort of a nice guy. When I was a kid, my mother said, ‘Stephen if you were a girl, you’d always be pregnant.’”

Which then got me thinking… the whole “nice guy” persona, something I’m very much familiar with, really is pretty much a male phenomenon.  I thought back to the posts I wrote about The Friend Zone, and The Mating Habits of Beta Men, but with an eye on just how different the whole friendly/nice dynamic is different depending on whether you’re the guy or the girl.  Being “the nice guy” really does tend to put you in a place where romantic and sexual contact is pretty rare, whereas being “the nice girl” can get you a fair amount of romantic and sexual contact if you so choose.  I often think about how interesting it must be to be a woman who has that power of choice, the ability to take a friendship with a man and one day just take it to another level if she desires.  How do women feel about having that freedom?  Are they thrilled by it?  Or burdened by it, in a “with great power comes great responsibility” sort of way?

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