Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘dating’ Category

How to meet your Ex-Lover at the Coffee Shop after a 15-year Lapse

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  • Don’t cry. No one wants to see you cry again. You cried enough – a river, an ocean. Nowadays, the hostess seats you behind plants and screens in most of the restaurants in town. They remember. The relationship lasted only six months and although you thought he was your soul mate, he married someone else. With fake boobs. Real hair. Don’t judge him by judging her, or at least, not where anyone else can hear. DO NOT CALL EVERY FRIEND, GOING OVER EVERY LITTLE DETAIL UNTIL THEY STOP TALKING TO YOU FOR A YEAR LIKE BACK THEN.
  • Don’t drink your coffee. Using both hands, put your coffee on another table. I know you met in this coffee shop but it’s for the best. If you try to drink your coffee, your hands will shake, spilling it down yourself. If you put it on your table, you’re sure to knock it over. Big embarrassment, big mistake. Save yourself the grief. There was grief enough in the relationship with all its messiness and financial consequences. YOU’VE JUST STOPPED JUMPING EVERY TIME THE DOOR OPENS, THINKING YOU’LL POSSIBLY GET A GLIMPSE OF HIM WITH ANY OF HIS GIRLFRIENDS OR HIS WIFE – ALL BLONDE, EXCEPT YOU, AND THIN, EXCEPT YOU. NO, YOU DON’T NEED TO SEE A CARDIOLOGIST.
  • Don’t ignore him. That never worked when you were together. It won’t work now. Be civil and say hello. Everyone in the coffee shop is watching and this is your moment to shine (and possibly shake his and most people’s perception of you as a crazy psycho bitch). YOU ACTED BATSHIT CRAZY FOR SOME TIME – THE LAURA-ASHLEY-GIRLY PHASE FOLLOWED BY THE I’M-NOT-BATHING SHINDIG CULMINATING IN THE BURYING-A-SHOE RITUAL.
  • Don’t flirt. He knows all your moves. YOU EVEN TURNED UP AT HIS ‘EST-IN-THE-21ST-CENTURY’ CULT GRADUATION, ELBOWING A YOUNG WOMAN OUT OF THE WAY SO THE FIRST THING HE SAW UPON ENLIGHTENMENT WAS YOU, MORE NAKED THAN DRESSED HOLDING A WILTED DAISY. He’s moved on. You haven’t but that’s not his problem. And now you look like a cry-baby skank. You may not be able to avoid him but you can avoid the label of incompetent homewrecker!
  • Don’t ask him if he’s ill or lost weight or heaven forbid, both. Embrace your delusions and chalk it up to him missing your burnt cheese toast. A staple of your time together. He’s just grown older. Like you. Don’t look in the mirror behind the barista. So not the time to do the fearless, personal inventory or book a facelift. DO NOT LOOK TOO CLOSELY AT HIS FACE – HE COULD ALWAYS GET AWAY WITH ANYTHING, TALK YOU INTO BELIEVING ANYTHING – WHEN YOU LOOKED AT HIS FACE.
  • Don’t, please don’t, tell him about the shrine you dedicated to him, complete with a pair of his unwashed boxers and a crusty plate. Or how you haven’t cleaned his footprint off the wall since the crazy sex haze one Sunday afternoon fifteen summers ago. THE SUNDAY AFTERNOON WHEN IT FELT LIKE EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO WORK OUT. THEN THE SUCKER PUNCH A WEEK LATER WHEN THE WAITRESS TOLD YOU ABOUT THE LATE-NIGHT CANOODLING WITH THE BLONDE. He’ll think you haven’t had good sex since he left you, and hopefully, that’s not true. Remember, you sold that house and the footprint is someone else’s problem.
  • Don’t touch your hair. Too late now to do anything with it and it will look like you’re flirting (see #4). He’s seen you through good and bad hair days. He didn’t break up with you because of your hair. He broke up with you because he wanted to sleep with someone else. And he did as soon as you were out of the picture. You know this because you snuck over to his house one night after the break-up, hid in the hydrangeas, and eavesdropped for three hours. THEN DIDN’T LEAVE YOUR HOUSE FOR A MONTH. Don’t make an appointment with your hairdresser. Now is not the time to experiment with that asymmetrical cut that will be hell to grow out.
  • Don’t engage him in any personal conversation. Especially do not tell him about reading the book, ‘Women who love too much’ or its companion, ‘Men who can’t love.’ Do not tell him about the decade of therapy and how you’re only now able to see men with black labs without needing medication. Do not show him your medication. CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATE AND IF IT’S STILL VALID, TAKE A XANAX. Ask about his dog who has most likely died by now. Really dig deep, commiserate so he feels as shitty as you do. Hide your glee.
  • Don’t tell him that you need closure. That’s what all the therapy was for – if either of you HAD BEEN THE LEAST BIT ADULT, you wouldn’t be on a payment plan with your therapist AND YOU WOULD HAVE AVOIDED WEEKS OF SCREAMING, RESULTING IN THAT PAINFUL SURGERY FOR LARYNGEAL POLYPS. Do make an appointment with your new therapist. Tell her you’re driving to her office right now and will sit in her waiting room until she can see you.
  • Don’t rush out for alcohol. No one likes a sloppy drunk and you’ve worn out your friends with this particular coping skill. Anyway, it’s 8:15 on a Tuesday morning. Update your Uber app and wait until 5 pm. Then go somewhere dark where you can cry into your chardonnay. Buy a good first glass then switch to the house wine. Do not drink and text. Do not peruse his Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn accounts. STALKING IS FROWNED UPON – THE NICE POLICEMAN TOLD YOU SO.

YOU LOVED HIM. HE MOVED ON. YOU WERE DEVASTATED. GET ON WITH IT. Read ‘Relationships for Dummies.’ Get fitted for a new diaphragm. Get a professional wax job. Start fresh or fresher down there. Stock up on condoms. Put clean sheets on the bed and towels in the bathroom. Put on your big girl panties and sign up for a dating app. GO TO A DIFFERENT GODDAMN COFFEE SHOP.

 

Sheep, Stepfamilies, and The Brady Bunch

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Last night, I was flipping through the channels and saw an advert for the TV series, The Brady Bunch. The last time that I thought about the show was when a group of therapists was kvetching about stepfamilies. Someone brought up The Brady Bunch, and every one of us groaned, which soon became a throw-darts-at, annihilate-the-series free-for-all. Therapists loathe this show. We loathe The Brady Bunch for multiple reasons, professional and personal.

One, Carol Brady was a nincompoop – without a job, but she still needed a housekeeper, slightly exasperated but still way too calm, and was addicted to caffeine, probably to keep her awake. Not a role model nor representative of a mother in any stepfamily we knew of or were a part of.

Two, apart from Jan the whiny one, the show’s characters are flat, stock stereotypes. Goodie-goodies who could share bedrooms and bathrooms. Try that with your teenagers. Take out extra insurance!

Three, where are the zits? This was a show populated with teenagers, and there was not a zit in sight. Or feminine hygiene products. Or stinky tube socks. Or birth control pills or condoms. Not even a dish or glass left on the counter.

(I am kind of glad for their neglect of diversity, in any form – who knows how they would have mishandled it.)

The big reason to loathe The Brady Bunch  – the show sets up unrealistic expectations around the coming together of two families. Stepfamilies are difficult, horribly painful and awkward, from deciding where to live, who gets a particular bedroom and especially, bathroom, to the weird hormone stew stirred by the proximity of unfamiliar relatives smashed up against each other, to finish with the delusion of two families having this sorted out in under five years.

Not my experience. When Dad moved out, I was fifteen and tired of the parental tension, so the idea of divorce was not a problem. Things were pretty good for a year. Mom was grumbly and lonely, but the three of us siblings kept going to school, no one got hooked on anything, and we established a pretty tight family bond.

Then Mom announced that she was dating. The kids looked at each other, grimaced, and went to our rooms. I had a good-sized bedroom as the oldest; it was my haven. During that first year, post-divorce, I got a separate telephone line. Yes, it was the late 70s. I remember phoning my friend to tell her about Mom’s announcement. She was silent. This was happening before divorce became common, almost a rite of passage, among teenagers.

We kids proceeded to make Mom’s life hell. We pestered her with problems, had emergencies during her dates, ignored him when she introduced us, and other usual adolescent brouhahas. We were annoying little shits.

Then one day I saw them. I was walking home from high school wondering where I had put my zit cream when I saw his car approaching. I ran behind a shrub. Not a big shrub and probably they would have noticed me if not for them being so involved in each other. My mother was laughing. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her laughing. What followed was a weird epiphany; Mom deserved the opportunity to be happy. Did I need her to be alone, lonely, waiting for me to grow up before she moved on with her life? What right did I have to judge her? Something opened up for me on that day. I had a toehold on transformation.

I’d love to say that it was sunshine and rainbows from then on. No. My younger brother and sister were not happy with Mom’s choice to date. We never met his children. Adolescence with all of its pain continued, but I didn’t feel the need to create additional drama with Mom over her dating habits. At some point, they stopped dating and Mom must have decided to avoid the problem for the rest of the time her children lived at home.

Home on break during my senior year at college, I asked Mom why she never remarried. She said she didn’t want to subject us to the ordeal of bringing another man into the house. I nodded and went up to my then shoe-box-sized room feeling guilty for my part in her decision. Maybe Mom didn’t want to subject herself to the ordeal of her annoying little shits, her own kids …

Now, I wish for TV shows that help us navigate changing family structures, shows that hold up characters struggling for their needs, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, but with at least a foot in reality. A TV show about the craziness of blending families with the squabbling and the unevenness of humanity and the possibility of transformation.

 

(Image by Rudy van der Veen at Skitterphoto.com – do you know how difficult it is to find a realistic pic of a family? For some reason, sheep felt right.)

The Pickle Story

picklestoryAN EXCERPT from a short story published in the anthology, Robot Hearts. (A woman performs the Heimlich Maneuver and goes out on a date with the man she saved.)

This month has been hard.  My clients are doing the usual two-week ramp up before the Christmas holidays.  They talk about their parties, hangovers, family brouhahas, and impulsive sexual escapades.  The entire month makes me want to act out with them. So I did.

My holiday escapade began when I made an awkward phone call to the man from synagogue that went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m the woman from Friday night services.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you would call.”

“Well, it was sweet of you to come out to my car and say thank you.”

“It was amazing how far the ruggelah flew.”

“Yes. The rabbi was surprised.”

I tapped my fingers. Reconnected with my eye twitch. Good bloody grief.  I cut to the chase.  “What do you think about dinner?”

“I like dinner,” he said.

“You had suggested we go to dinner.”

“Oh yes, I forgot.”

“What kind of food do you like?” I asked.

“Oh most things.  Hamburgers, meatloaf, chicken soup, ice cream.”

I had a moment – a long moment of wondering, “Is this worth it?” I decided to carry on.

“Do you know Mitch’s Tavern?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well.  I know Mitch and he can make some great chilli and sandwiches but not hamburgers.”

“I don’t like spicy food.”

“What, never mind. When are you thinking?” I said.

“What?”

“Do you have a date, a time in mind?”

“No.  Do you?”

“How about Tuesday?”

“Okay.”

“So we have the date?”

“Good.  I’ll be there,” he said.

“Good.  But what time?”

“After work.”

“Okay, let’s pull this together.  Tuesday at 7 pm at Mitch’s Tavern?”

“How will I know you?”

“I’m the one who saved your life.”

“Oh yeah.  Short, skinny, red hair, but God you were strong.”

“Looking forward to it,” I said.

I was sitting at the bar, talking with Mitch, the owner when a series of clunks echoed up the gloomy staircase.  David clomped his way over. “It’s good to see you getting out,” said Mitch and winked before strolling off.

A cute, college waitress showed us to our booth.  She smiled in first date sympathy as she handed over the menus.

“I’ll give you a few minutes to figure out your order.  What would you like to drink?”

“Knob Creek. A few ice cubes.”

David’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline.

“Budweiser.”

I smiled at him. He did not smile back.

“You’re prettier than I remembered.”

“Thanks.  It must be the lighting.”

We studied our menus like college students cramming that last little factoid before a history exam.

The waitress appeared with my bourbon, two waters, and his beer.  “Mitch said it’s on the house.  What would you like to eat?”

“A Rueben with fries,” I said.

“Ham and cheese.  Hold the pickle.  I don’t eat pickles,” he said.

“I’ll eat your pickle.  No, no wait.  I won’t eat your pickle.  Well not tonight.  Maybe later.  Another time?  NO.  Keep your pickle.  Not that there’s anything wrong with your pickle.  I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine pickle, just not a pickle for me tonight.  No, no pickle for me.  I gave them up.  All that brine has got to bad for the mucous membranes.”  I sputtered, feeling this deep pull in my belly.  A spasm, a fit, a seizure, a visceral understanding of the absurdity of the situation.  I started to laugh.  Really laugh like I hadn’t in a long time.  The waitress and I were rolling, wiping tears out of our eyes.  The table shook with us.  She had to sit down.  I offered her my bourbon.

David locked eyes with me.  His gaze suggested I had disemboweled his dog.  The waitress moved away.  The table was cocooned in a judgmental silence.

Dinner was fast.  We politely shook hands.  David walked away.  I went back to Mitch’s Tavern.  The waitress and I stayed up late drinking bourbon and trading war stories.  We decided to just walk away the next time someone chokes.

Lying face up on my bed sifting through the night’s events, I watched the first apricot rays of dawn dance across the floor.  Rod would have understood the pickle story.  He would have fed me the pickle, spending our last twenty bucks to buy bourbons for the four of us (me, him, the waitress, Mitch).  He would have made crude remarks for years about green vegetables.  The pickle fiasco would have become a little tease, a pickle tickle about the connection between sex and love and laughter, another little curlicue in our goofy love story.

 

Elegant Feet: A Story for You

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“I have been told that I have elegant feet,” he said picking her up for their third date.

She had swallowed, tantalized, thinking about those feet. The imagined feet plagued her through the entire night – while he was driving the car, scrounging through the CD store, eating at the upscale restaurant, while playing word games at dinner, and on the drive home to her house. She plotted. “How do I see his feet without actually having sex with him?”

During the drive from her house, he had talked about growing up in Detroit. “The mosquitoes grow big enough to carry away small children.” She had searched the statement for hidden meanings. “Detroit is too dangerous and I left it for Kansas.”

“Oh,” she said dumb with desire for his feet.

“Now political speechwriting keeps me busy. It’s unexpectedly lucrative,” he said parking the car.

She watched him get out of the car – an older man than she usually dated. He had a fastidiously trimmed mustache. Arched eyebrows were neat and all of a length. His spare but well kept hair was gray sliced with youth’s gold.

“Depending on whom I am writing for, I grow, shave, and grow back the mustache,” he said.

He watched her watching him. Mustache, eyebrows and hair suggested light lashes but they were a thick, dark shade framing blue eyes. Startling but still …

They had walked down the street crowded with perfect twenty year olds.

“I was very skinny as a teenager and into my twenties,” he said. “Clothes were a trial.”

Inwardly she smiled at the cleverly chosen clothes covering his tidy body. He wore a comfortably rumpled linen shirt, beige jeans with a handsome leather belt, and a dark fitted blazer. But the clincher for her was the navy blue cloth sneaker with the brown leather stripe mostly hidden in the shoe’s tongue. She was unable to name the color of his thick, ribbed socks. The nondescript color of his socks united the beige jeans and navy sneakers. She concluded that his clothes were well coordinated and deliberately planned to mask the thickening of his body with age. He carried them off with an attractive nonchalance.

Her attention returned to his feet making her silent.

“Your head must get heavy with all that thinking,” he said. When he smiled, the slight padding of fat on his fine English bones made him look a decade younger than his age.

“Yes. Sometimes my hair hurts,” she said with a giggle.

As they continued their stroll, she had been curious about the type and color of his underwear. On the first date, she had taken him for a tightey-whitey kind of guy. Now she wasn’t sure. She thought he might be a hybrid, the type of man who wore the boxer-brief style but in a safe color such as gray or black. Would he be hairy on his stomach, back and groin or would he have the sparse tufts often found on blondes? Would he have freckles? Or moles? What would it matter?

“You may have elegant feet,” she said. “But you have beautiful hands.” Initially, his hands had enthralled her. They were the reason she went out with him the first time. Their hands were the same size. The skin on his hands lay flat and taut lacking the muscular depth of her hands.

“I had wanted to play the piano. Now it is too late to learn.”
“You love music?” she said.
“Yes. I have this good speaker system at home.”
“Oh. What do you listen to?”
“I love to sit between the speakers and listen to the romanticism of Schubert’s songs.”
“Why between the speakers?”
“I don’t know. Maybe better sound quality. The music asks me to sit quietly, very still as the waves of notes pour out. Do you like music?”
“Yes. I grew up in a family of musicians but I was the dancer. My feet always hurt.” She looked away. “I have bad feet.”
“They look perfectly fine to me. They seem to work. We’re walking.”

She fought an urge to cry. “What’s the difference between classical and romantic music?” she asked.
She nodded in attentive silence during his explanation. In awe over his extensive knowledge of music, she was still fixated on his footwear.

“I hear with my cerebral processes,” he said.
“What about your body?”
“It’s superfluous. When I’ve been drinking, I can tap my foot. I don’t dance,” he said.
“Do you think we have the same size feet?” she asked.
“No. I think mine are bigger,” he said with that same smile. She wondered if he would have short Freddy Flintstone toes or if they’d be long and prehensile.

“What do you do with the rest of your body while your mind and head is so active?”
“My body’s useful. It carries around my head,” he said.

She had smiled at the witticism but she was a little confused by the disconnection between his mind and body. It doesn’t make sense, she thought. He is touched to his core by music but his body stays still. She knew she moved her whole body in response to music. Each dancing teacher had said the same thing. “We have to work on your technique, especially your feet, but you’re an unusually lyrical and musically expressive dancer.”

At the CD store, he had gone looking for a vinyl copy of a CD she had played for him on their first date. She left him to wander in search of the more formally structured music she loved. She was struck by the selection of new and used CDs watched over by a young pimply girl in her late teens. The pimples covered her face, neck, chest, back, and upper arms. The scattering of wounds did not appear to upset her in the least. Clad in flip-flops, her feet were flawless – pale skinned, soft, and smooth. The young girl’s disregard for her wounds and her beauty shifted the focus to other factors, such as the proliferation and diversity of music in the store. She watched her date walk up and down the aisles of pressed discs. His feet did a fine job of moving through ankle, arch, and toes.

At the restaurant, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer. She had a lovely Portuguese white wine. “Do you mind me having a glass of wine?”

“No. I’m just tired after raking my yard all day. I don’t want to risk sleepiness driving home after a drink,” he said clicking his non-alcohol to her alcohol.

She fretted over his plans for the evening. She didn’t think he had plans to show her his feet.

Sitting at an outside table, they had shared a Caesar salad that he gallantly dished onto her plate. She move moved a toast point onto his plate after he knocked one off serving her a portion of the salad. Talk was easy and light. His feet remained tucked under the table. She sprawled on her chair. Her naked toes peeked out from under her jeans. Sandals left her feet chilly in the rapidly cooling fall air. His feet stayed under the table. She was sure they were thoughtfully arranged.

When their main course came, she had laughed with delight. Her shrimp were a fragrant pink on their woodland bed of onions, mushrooms, and grits. His tuna was seared brown with a rare red middle. She wiggled her toes in her sandals glancing over at him. He was eating away with a gusto she hoped would be available for other activities. At the dark table, their lone candle created a fuzzy halo for their meal. Arms, mouths, and faces moved towards the food and each other. The bottom halves of their bodies were quietly waiting.

They had walked back to his car, warm with food and talk, carried by their two sets of feet.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
Looking into his serious face, she held her breath.
“I have peripheral artery disease. I don’t feel much below my knees.”
“And your feet?” she said.
“Not much feeling,” he said shaking his head. “But it has other implications in my life. I want you to understand what you might be choosing in a relationship with me,” he said.

They had stopped walking to turn towards each other. She laughed with recognition and relief. He looked hurt.

“What’s so funny?”

She smiled at him as she told him a story.“I have a friend who was a Buddhist monk. Now he sells used cars. He said, ‘After a while, all cars have issues. So I keep a mechanic on staff and don’t sweat the small stuff.’”

“Small stuff like feet?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said.
“Do you know any mechanics?”
“No but I know someone who might,” she said laying her head on his shoulder.

They had continued their walk back to the car, fingers intertwined, and their feet in concert.
That night, with much laughter, they showed each other their boo-boos.

“I’ll rub your elegant feet,” she said.
“I’ll brush your heavy hair,” he said.

It was these acts of kindness that started their love. Some days he limps and other days she gets fixated on ideas. In this life, you never know where feet and head will take you.

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