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”.