The Millennial Generation

Why is it that with this generation so many “kids” seem bound & determined to have such serious relationships so young? I can hear people talk; they say it’ll never last, they need to live first, they can’t have kids now they can barely support themselves, they need to make their stake professionally first, yada yada yada.

That was honestly my first thought when I realized my beautiful daughter Kelsey was pregnant. Oh no! How could this happen (please, yes I know how!)? My first instinct was that she and Adam couldn’t raise a child, they’re just babies themselves! Kelsey still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up and Adam is a tad to content for as young as he is. How in the world will they make this work? I’ve stressed about this, I’ve prayed about this more than most of the issues in my tumultuous past – yep, really!

I think way back to that late November day over 20 years ago when I first realized that I was pregnant with Kelsey. George and I had been married for over 5 years and had lived together for a few years before that. It was the week of opening day of buck (that’s deer season folks) so George had gone down to camp to hangout for a few days with Uncle Tommy, cousin Mike and their crew from the Burgh. I called camp to see how things were going and to find out when George was heading home. Uncle Tommy set the phone down for a few minutes so he could go fetch George off the roof of the camp. Apparently they’d gotten a tremendous amount of snow at camp and the men were having a snowball battle. George had occupied the roof for a better view and aim. Not really how you would think a newly expecting father would be occupying his time, right?

I was 29 at the time, George was 33. He made a good salary with the PA State Police and I was doing well at my job doing Marketing and Public Relations for a local forest products company. I was still a nervous wreck about how we would afford this baby! On the other hand people say if you wait to have a baby until you can afford it the human race would be extinct. Hmmm, good point.

Our marriage didn’t make it. We totally screwed up as parents and have emotionally scarred our children for life. I thought we did everything the way we were supposed to. What happened?

So many older couples are having their first child at 35-40-45. So many are choosing to climb the ladder first then marrying & starting families but the divorce rate is higher now than it has ever been. Then I think back even further to my parents.

My Mother married my Father when she was just 16. She had my oldest sister when she was 17…..yes, the entire family counted the months to her birth 13 months later – longest pregnancy on record! Lol Dad took a job at the mill working for US Steel in Homestead after high school. he said he told Grandpa Hilla he’d work there until something better came along. 44 years later at 62 years old he was the last employee from the Big Shop laid-off when US Steel shut down the plant in Pittsburgh. My parents had their fair share of trouble. Just ask Mrs Tamburi about the talks at the dinning room table! My Mom was even going to leave my Dad at one point. That was, just before the big C. I honestly don’t think she would have really left even if she hadn’t been diagnosed, but then what do I know. But I know that my Dad took care of my Momma right up until the day that she died. He said he swore his vows before God and he meant them.

So, being the geek that I am I googled “what is love”. What a disappointment! Wikipedia says that it is a song released May 8, 1983. Youtube has a video about it. Psychology today says it is an instinct more than a feeling. Yet the antient Greeks have seven different words to define the stages of love; Storage, Philia, Eros, Agape, Ludus, Pragma & Philautia. Funny I just had a conversation with a colleague and friend today at lunch who swore that she just couldn’t do this serious dating thing again after being hurt so deeply twice by her husbands. I said “yes you will. The alternative is to be alone forever. You’re already alone and you don’t really want that. It’s scary, but you know all the possibilities. You have to have Faith. If you have Faith then Gods bigger plan will be revealed to you but it will be in His time, not yours.” And I believe, deep in my heart, in every word I spoke to her today. I’m counting on it myself!

So maybe my generation has it all wrong and that’s what’s wrong with America today. Our parents worked hard for what they had, some went through the depression, union strikes and major illnesses. They held their beliefs close to their hearts and persevered, together. My generation, we fall on hard times and we point fingers, we throw mud, we play the blame game and it is every man for himself. Relationships cannot persevere through that. Maybe through all of my generations turmoil and dysfunction, the next generation can see past our issues to what really matters. Back to our parents and grandparents days.

Looking back, I truly believe in the good old fashioned values and morals……..I’m still praying hard on this little baby of love growing in my babies belly. I don’t know what the future holds for Kelsey, Adam or Baby Giddens. But I do know that this baby will be loved no matter what. The rest I’ve just turned over and Gods will shall be done. They’ll figure it out as they go.

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Online Serial Dating

I believe that one of the greatest dangers of online dating is not a Craigslist Killer (although you should certainly take precautions) but serial dating. When I was first introduced to online dating I had no idea what this was. I was the opposite, I was a serial messager. By the time I’d finally met the man I knew everything he could possibly consider telling me about himself and plenty that he most likely had never intended to tell anyone. I would message with a man for days, weeks, a few even for months before we would finally meet. I used the excuse that I was busy with two young children and a full-time job but in actuality, I was still getting adjusted to being single and entering the great wide world of dating.
Once I accepted the fact that I did not want to spend the rest of my life alone then the only alternative was to date. Sometimes it was really painful, sometimes it was really fun. Sometimes I learned really unusual things about people, or that the things they do on the television shows when they say “do not try this at home” people do anyway. Fortunately, I always had a couple of friends that I could tell all too. Just a couple. Once I focused on the dating, and didn’t attempt to get to know my date to well in advance it became less painful.
As it became easier and easier to strike up a conversation online and work through the process to the first date it became increasingly more difficult not to judge them by an unrealistic standard because there were still hundreds of men to choose from that were just one more click away. This is a world where I could refuse to even converse with a man that was less than six feet tall. I could choose every characteristic about him, including his income, if he owned a car, if he had or wanted children, facial hair and the thickness of his body. If I didn’t like the options that came up I could simply alter the age by a year or maybe lower my standard to a man that is 5’11”.
From my perspective, online dating seems to promote serial dating. Come on now, we’ve all seen the photos that the websites promote of the beautiful, happy couple that met through their site. I know that it has been a very long time since I had a figure or a complexion like the woman in that photo. So the likelihood of meeting a man that looks like the man in the photo, and him being interested in me, were slim to none. But ladies, we can dream. And while we’re dreaming we continue to pay a fee for our membership to the online dating site. Dating has evolved into more of a meet-up which has virtually no emotional investment what-so-ever. They have become superficial encounters that consist of basically a cliche drink at a bar or coffee at Starbucks. I can’t blame the men for this, women have contributed to the demise of the traditional date as well. Who can blame a man for not spending upwards of $100 on dinner and a movie for two when he knows she’s already envisioning the next click before the main course even arrives?
I believe that online dating is a fantastic advancement to the dating society but that progress has come with a price. When online dating we have to be careful not to become overly superficial, unsatisfied version of ourselves in this process.
Recently, I reconnected with a man I had met online more than five years ago. We both really liked each other at the time but the timing wasn’t right for me for there was just to much drama with my ex and his wife at the time. Flash forward; We went on a series of wonderful dates and after a few weeks I called my best-friend to fill her in. She listened, intently, just as she always did. My married friends seem to think the dating thing is fun and love to live vicariously through me. When I finished she said “so, what’s the catch?” The catch, I did not understand. She said for sure I had a reason to move on. “I don’t understand” I said what in the world did she mean? “You always have a reason to move on, regardless of how great a guy is,” she said. Ouch, really? Had I really been that judgmental? “Not really” she said “you had valid reasons is ditching the last guy texting you love songs before you’d even met him.” Whew I thought, thank God she didn’t really think I owed him a shot because of his choice in music!
However, this puts it all in perspective. Maybe we serial date not because we are being to selective or there are so many options out there. But maybe we serial date until our hearts land on the right person. Perhaps it just all has to come together at the right time, right place, right guy. Then when things a-line, we’ll accept their faults willingly not because they’re perfect but because they’re perfect for us. So if this is where serial dating can lead us perhaps it’s not such a terrible thing after-all.

Rules For Dating After Divorce

When I first began dating again I listened to as many people as I could about how to make this easier on myself. Or, what would and would not work in the new and modern world of dating. There seemed to be a lot that had changed since I had dated before my 16 year marriage, I tried to soak it all in and learn from everyone’s words of wisdom.

My sister had a co-worker that laid out her rules for us. She had to many to recall, but the one that we still chuckle about was “if he does not call you by Wednesday for a date on the weekend then you need to promptly let him know that you are not available.” Her rationale was that you should not make yourself readily available, you need time for the anticipation of the date AND he needed to show that it wasn’t a last minute thought and he actually wanted to plan his weekend around you. This woman was the same woman who promptly quit her job when she got married and even though she had a Barbie doll figure, had what little fat she had removed from her upper thighs just a few months before her wedding. Not sure we saw eye-to-eye on anything.

Although most of the women I spoke to recommended keeping the ex-husband out of conversations with dates I quickly realized that very few followed their own advice. I watched other single-moms make spectacles of themselves at the kids school at parent exchange time. I went on double-dates and listened to the experienced single-moms ranting endlessly about their ex. It was painful to watch and listen to, I definitely did not want to be that woman. I’m sure over the years I’ve said to much. Often, I’ve said to little. But I certainly agree that my ex may have had a significant impact on my life but he is gone from it and there’s no need to reintroduce him into it.

I was strongly encouraged to date around. I’ve since learned that this is referred to as serial dating. Everyone seems to be doing this, but very few seem to be successful. I was told that there is nothing wrong with dating several men at once so that all of your eggs aren’t in the same basket. Date around and determine what exactly you want in a man and in a relationship. Personally, I felt like I was cheating every single time I did this. It was to stressful for me! I’m a loyal person, and I don’t feel that I was showing any type of commitment in getting to know someone if I was dating others at the same time. I’m still single, so maybe I got this one all wrong. I failed royally at this rule.

I came up with a few rules of my own; don’t go backward, don’t introduce the kids until the relationship is going somewhere, don’t date a co-worker and don’t be clingy nor date a clinger.

Everyone, single or not, had an opinion of online dating. Some thought it was a horrible approach, some thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was both terrified and intrigued. It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t get stuck there. Have the courage to start again. So, I decided to give it a try!

What Do I Enjoy

One of the first questions a date or potential date asks is “what do you enjoy doing in your free time?” Once I get past the dreaminess thought of having free time, I didn’t really have an answer for them, which seems odd. So many years were dedicated to our family home, raising two rambunctious kids, working at least one full-time job and volunteering that free time wasn’t something I’d had much of. In the past, I was active with a lot of groups as a volunteer and I really did enjoy that time.  When you become half of a couple, or a member of a family, you begin to do things together so not everything that you partake in is what you would naturally enjoy. Think about that, if you are married or presently in a long-term relationship would you typically do the things you do with your partner if they were not with you? By choice?

Hmmmm, so one thing that my ex and I did with the kids was to take them fishing. Now mind you, the kids were still young and they had absolutely no idea that they needed a hook at the end of the fishing line in order to catch a fish. George struggled with casting and it was tough to catch a photo of him in action without his thinking tongue sticking way way out. Kelsey, she seriously thought that she could serenade those fish into jumping right into the boat with us. Fortunately, neither of their tactics worked. Flash forward to dating and yes, sure James the kids and I would love to go fishing with you and your daughter! How bad could it be right, we used to have a blast out on the boat at the lake fishing.

Well, first off I take the heat on this one for I never relayed to my date that my kids had never fished with hooks before! What the heck had I gotten myself into, I had to put the squiggly worms on the hooks and pierce their bodies to do so! Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Okay, once the hooks were in the water then we could have fun. No? No. My dates daughter caught George’s face cheek with her hook as she was attempting to cast – I let her know he was the best catch of her life! But inside I was dying how in the world could I not protect my kids from this kind of pain! Needless to say, the kids had a blast and Kelsey caught the largest flounder of them all. We went home and my date said he would cook us fish for dinner. He gave me a filet knife and he started to get things ready in the kitchen.

“What do you want me to do with this” I asked. He wanted ME to filet the flounder. Hellooo, oh hell no! I don’t handle slimy things well. Give me a deer to gut and I can handle that with just a dab of Vicks under the nose, but fish guts would force an instant release of the contents of my stomach! Oh my! I took all of the kids on a bike ride while he filleted and prepared our dinner. It certainly was nice having dinner prepared for me for a change, but it was a bit embarrassing to reveal a weakness to someone that I hardly knew.

So, fishing wasn’t so great. Boating, we had enjoyed boating as a family so when I had a man ask me to go kayaking with him I thought, oh fun! And it was! I had such a great time on that date that I invested in a tandem kayak so the kids and I could go out together (they were small enough then that we could all fit).

Dating certainly has exposed me to some new experiences! Minor league baseball games are a blast! Movies are always good but it’s difficult to get to know someone in the theater. Dinner is nice, and it does reveal a lot about the guy is he chooses the restaurant. However, roll with it and see what happens. Early on that first year of dating one of my first dates was to a beach-side restaurant that when we entered we lowered the median age by more than 20! Silver hair and purple hats were everywhere! However, after dinner we opted to go upstairs and we had the greatest time laughing and carrying on with the karaoke folks! Speaking of laughing, I had never been to see a stand-up comedian before, the next day I felt like I had done 1,000 crunches and then I understood that laughter really is the best medicine.

I’m still finding new and adventurous things that I enjoy, and have discovered a few things that I thought I liked but realized that I don’t. I’ve made a lot of male friends through this process, but at the end of the day I’m still a SWF. I’m okay with that, and remind myself that I would rather spend the rest of my life alone than be with the wrong man again. Although, of course, I do not wish to remain alone! But dating certainly has been fun, I hope you’ll continue reading my blog to be enlightened by more of my unusual and typical experiences.

The “No List”

I didn’t realize in my last post how many readers I’d left hanging. Thank you all for the feedback and comments, y’all are awesome!

I didn’t purposely develop my No List. My daughter Kelsey and I were home watching a Lifetime movie one night when she was about 10. It was a cute movie about a single woman that had developed a white board list of all the features she wanted in a man. Inevitably, the woman found love in the most unusual place and the man had very little of the traits that were on her list. Kelsey turned to me and said “Momma, that’s why you don’t have a boyfriend! You need to throw away your list!”

Hmmmm, I explained to Kelsey that I didn’t have a list of everything I wanted in a man. I actually had a list in my head of things I just would not accept in/of a man. She then decided that I needed to write that list down on a whiteboard and then I would meet him. Little did she know that I had been still actively dating, but explaining that will be in a future blog. There were just so many No List guys out there! So, I wrote my list down in a notebook and she reviewed it. Funny, when she finished reading it her response was “da, everybody knows that!” All these years later she’s got her own experiences to show the value of the No List. And although my No List items are things that most women would respond to similarly as Kelsey did, time and time again we all know people that are in relationships where one of the couples is tolerating one or more of these traits.

As I entered the dating pool in my mid 30’s I realized I had a lot of self discovery to do. When a man would ask what I liked to do in my spare time (not that I had much) I really had to think hard. There’s plenty of things that I did with my ex-husband because he wanted to. I had to revisit those thing and actually evaluate whether it was something I enjoyed or something that I did for him. Sounds really silly, right? But I had a whole lot to learn about myself.

During that time, I also had to wrestle with myself mentally to try not to hold things against the men in my future, for what the man in my past had done. At first, I feared that the No List was doing just that. However, my past is a part of who I am. It is not a weapon to be used to fight, nor a shield to protect me from living. Simply lessons that I have learned and experiences that I should grow from. Just a part of who I am, like it or not.

So the list, I know, here it goes:

1.) No physical abuse. Nobody goes into a relationship thinking that the person that they are connecting with is going to physically hurt them. However, there are warning signs and traits to look for. I know that everybody and every situation has its own unique set of circumstances so I will not go into much detail her on this. However, if you are dating educate yourself. There is plenty of material on this and you should do diligence on this. If you have a daughter, heck even a son, educate yourself and then share what you have learned with them.The most important thing is that Nobody deserves this. Don’t try to rationalize it. Don’t be scared to leave. Don’t believe that you deserve it. Don’t mistake it for love. The abuser is weak, cowardice and full of fear. There is always help available. If you have not where else to turn, turn to me and I will be there for you!

2.) No belittling or mental abuse. Just as there is no excuse for a bruised arm or a cracked jaw, there is no excuse for a bruised sense of self-worth. I was between jobs for a few months back in 2011 and I was dating Alejandro. Seemed like a nice guy, but he hadn’t yet met my kids. I was stoked because I had just gone through some testing at the Career Center and learned that I’d be able to go back to school for free for 18 months and continue to collect unemployment. I’d decided to pursue a career in nursing and shared my excitement with Alex over dinner. His first response was, “you’ll need to pass anatomy.” Yes, I understood that. “You are not going to be able to pass anatomy, it’s a very difficult course,” he said. “I understand that” I said “but I will do whatever it takes to get through the curriculum.” He proceeded to go on and on about how difficult the course was and encouraged me to change my major and do something simple. Really!? Are you freakin kidding me! I was cordial throughout the rest of dinner and ended the date right after. Nope, never talked to him again! Condescension is not a show of caring. Patronizing is not playful sarcasm. No one should undercut your belief in yourself, that is clearly grounds for dismissal. You do not have to take this, no one does. That is abuse. This will leave scars far deeper than any fist.

3.) No drugs or abuse of alcohol. I dealt with this for far to many years and learned more about addiction than I had ever cared to know. I am not against drinking, in fact I was just out last night with friends and had a few. However, if the person you are dating has to drink on every date and even at your request can’t go a night without having to many then there really is not point in moving forward. If you have to pick him up for that first date because he lost his license to DUI (google is your friend!) pass!  I totally understand a drink to calm the nerves when first meeting, but at a dozen do yourself a favor and call in that favor from a friend to be urgently called away. Sometimes I was very fortunate that my son got into some colorful situations and I would have to leave, whew! Red flag! If you are fresh in a relationship and they are on their best behavior, imagine what life will be like a few years down the road.

4.) No Liars. This covers a wide array of issues with a potential partner. Aside from the typical issue of infidelity partners have the potential to lie about other things too. But if they will lie to you about something minor will they lie to you later about bigger issues? Okay, I’ll admit it here that I google as many dates as I can when I meet a new man! Yep, call me a stalker, whatever you want, but I want to know a bit about this guy before I go out with him and start to share my life with him. I had a friend that thought hey, you’d really like this guy I know so he gave us each others email addresses. We emailed for a bit, it grew to talking on the phone and then we were meeting on a Friday night for a drink at JT’s. I personally, do not care for smoking. We discussed this and he said that he rarely will have a cigarette when he is at a bar hanging out with friends. Okay, I thought that’s tolerable. He also said that he usually went out for a drink one night on the weekend and that was about it, said he wasn’t much of a drinker. He was very respectable while we talked on the phone. I dropped my son George off at the middle school dance so I knew I was good for about 3-4 hours. So, we meet at JT’s, we’re at the outside bar listening to the live band and he buys me a drink. He then turns and begins to roll a cigarette! He lights it up and the smoke is blowing in my face – yuk! I said “hey, I thought you didn’t smoke” and he said “only when I drink”. How many people have all the materials to roll their own cigarettes if they only smoke one occasionally? Well, in the course of the 45 minutes that we were at that bar he rolled and smoked 3! He proceeded to talk about bar after bar and incident after drunken incident at those bars! Yikes, now what! Ha! My baby boy came to my rescue unknowingly and I got a call from Principal Orndorfe instructing me to pick George up from the dance for he’d gotten in to trouble. YES! Thank you Jesus, for once his behavior has worked to my advantage! I apologized to my date and excused myself, as I walked to my car he continued this really obnoxious cat calls across the bar – totally not cool! He text me about 30 minutes later asking if I was returning to the bar. I responded with just one word. NEVER.

5.) No Disrespect. There is no reason for this. It is fine to disagree on topics; politics, sports teams, favorites, whatever. But there is no reason to be disrespectful about it. Now please don’t think that it’s not okay to cut-up and have fun, I’m quite the sarcastic person myself and would much rather laugh than cry. But I think y’all know what I mean by disrespect. And this doesn’t just go for how he treats me. Any blatant disrespect to my loved ones is ground for dismissal as well. Anyone can tolerate someone they don’t like in doses of time, if he doesn’t like someone in my family he can suck it up just like any conscionable human being would.  But temper tantrums, cruel remarks and any negligence toward people that I care for leads to one way – the door!

6.) No Control Freaks! Controlling behavior is a cousin to belittling and it’s another form of abuse from a narcissistic person. Nobody makes decisions for you (unless you are my teenage children reading this, I still have a say there!) Nobody makes decisions for you. Nobody dictates how you should make your own decisions. Whether it is by force, or by manipulating, I won’t accept a man that thinks he is going to dictate what is best for me. Please don’t mistake me, I love to converse. I will discuss an item that I need to make a decision on and it’s wonderful to have a man that is mature enough to listen and offer insight that is different that mine. But, if he thinks he is going to tell me what to do, then have an immature response when I chose to do otherwise, he can take the next train right out of town.

7.) No shorties. Sorry, I know this is a stupid hang-up because I know a lot of really cool and hot short men. But I just can’t help it, I’d like the guy to be taller than me. The problem really is me, not him. I totally own this hang-up!

I’m not sure what y’all were expecting from my No List, I hope you’re not disappointed. It all is pretty obvious but if everyone followed it we wouldn’t need domestic violence shelters and domestic violence calls wouldn’t be the most frequently dispatched call for police officers now would it? The way I see it, if I really like this guy or feel myself falling in love with him I shouldn’t want to change him in any way. If he has these traits, I would want/need to.

 

Starting Over

So, although I’ve been a single-mom for over 10 years now I guess to begin my blog I’d need to revert back. When my ex-husband and I first separated I went through the proper legal channels to gain permission to move out of state, and relocated with my two children to Florida. My eldest sister was also going through a divorce so we moved in with her and begin our life near the beach in sunny Florida.

At the time, my daughter was 8 and my son was 5. I was fortunate enough to get a full-time job the day after moving and I worked the standard office hours Monday through Friday from 8-5. We quickly fell into a routine, structure is good I thought for young children but quickly discovered it was good for me too. After a few months of working and spending most of our free time at the beach my sister and new-found friends encouraged me to start dating. I reluctantly created an online profile for a dating site and spent way to much time conversing with what I still hope were real men over that site. Sometimes I was brave and initiated contact, sometimes I lurked and hoped that a hottie would contact me.

Eventually I finally made a commitment to meet Doug at a restaurant in Ormond Beach. He lived in Daytona so it was about the half-way point for us. I followed all of the safety tips that my friend Scott from back home insisted on. I left screenshots for my sister to find on the computer if I didn’t come home; I made sure a friend knew where and when we were meeting; I met him at a very busy location that was not secluded or off the beaten path and I still had not given him my last name, address or even my phone number. I have to admit, it had been many many years since I had felt the adrenaline rush of going on a date. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was just as handsome in person as he was in his profile photos. He had a beautiful smile and we clicked instantly and had a wonderful, long lunch where we talked non-stop with plenty of laughter inter-mixed. It was the best date I had been on in…say, decades I guess since I was married 16 years and we had dated then lived together before that.

Wow, this was fun! This was easy!  I could really get to like this! We reluctantly said our good-byes after exchanging phone numbers. Yes Scott, I did give him my number that day! We both said we looked forward to the next date, he walked me to my car gave me a kiss on the cheek opened my car door for me and closed it after I’d gotten in. We both headed off toward our own homes and I cried like a baby all the way home. What the hell was wrong with me!? I seriously sobbed driving north on Interstate 95. I had just left the best date I had been on in ages and I was acting like a two year old that hadn’t gotten the happy meal toy. I was so pissed that I had to go through the whole dating thing again. I really didn’t enjoy dating much as a teenager and I certainly was not thrilled at putting “it all out there” all over again.

So when I got home I promptly told my sister that this is Doug’s number and when you see it on the caller-id you DO NOT EVER ANSWER THE PHONE!! And we didn’t. He called, and he called again. He left sweet messages, he was so kind. I listened sometimes from across the room, but I never picked up the phone. Eventually he quit calling. Whew!

I stumbled. I fell. But I got back up again and again. I proceeded to enter a dating frenzy where I sometimes went on 3-4 lunch dates in the same week! I quickly determined that with the kids hectic activity schedules that it would be so much easier to meet these men for lunch during the work day while the children were in school and I had an excuse for a quick exit just shy of one hour.

My boss began to question me. He said “at least in the movie 50 First Dates she had short-term memory loss, what is your excuse?” My response was that I don’t need one! I learned that despite what I had been told during my married life, I wasn’t such a bad person. I needed to figure out who I was, when not part of a couple. And, I developed a list that pertained to my search for my idea of Mr Right. That list was not comprised of everything that I was looking for in a man, it was completely made up of all of the things that I would not longer accept from a man. Otherwise known as my “No List”.