Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘dating’

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.

 

Weird Times

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I’m at this really weird time in my life – mid 50s where I am working as hard as possible but seeing opportunities land elsewhere. In younger people’s laps.

My friends are talking about retiring, counting down the days, and planning their last great adventure. About five years ago, I realized I would be working until I died. Through a couple of lousy turns of the luck and some bad planning on my part, I will never be able to retire. Not ever.

Being unable to see a retirement in my future has impacted most areas of my life freaking me out. How did this happen? How did I not notice? Maybe it is a combination of my friends being 5 to 10 years older and in the last of the pensioned jobs. Maybe it has to do with being single or the two major downturns, more like plummets, of the stock market. Maybe it is a realization of the probability of being single when I die. Most likely the realization became embedded with fright after last year’s string of surgeries.

My friends are settling into their last homes and having what they consider safe adventures – cruises. Paying deposits for communities that allow you to move through ever increasing levels of care. I look at my townhouse and wonder how I will get up those steps in 15 years when my knees and hips give out. But who will give a mortgage to some one nearing retirement … So I have been told to plan for my infirmity. Like a good old codger, I have. Replacing the HVAC system. Replumbing. Changing out appliances. Getting stuff out of the attic and into easily accessible storage. Definitely must upgrade my refrigerator.

My 30-year yoga practice has changed. I said good-bye to the Level 2/3 classes, taking and teaching them. In class, it seems quite pig-headed to keep attempting something apt to hurt myself to appease my ego. But on interviews for yoga teaching jobs, employers do one of two things. They assume I want the gentle and restorative classes or I get pressured into those jobs.

I’m having to hunt down new doctors – my current doctors are retiring. I understand that my new doctors will be younger than me with little empathy for aging’s undeniable march. For example, my forty-year old orthopedist said, “You will never dance again.” I will dance tango again, even Lindy. Just watch me. “Wear sneakers 24/7.” Not bloody likely. I may lower my shoes’ heels from a 4” to 3” height but I will wear the handmade leather shoes from Italy with a tight skirt and fishnets.

I am the patient doctors keep badgering to schedule a colonoscopy, a skin cancer exam, but no one asks me about birth control or safe sex anymore. Maybe they think I’m too old to still be having sex.

Then there’s the men and dating.

No, I don’t want to go antiquing – never liked it so why should I like it now?

Yes, I do want to go for a hike at a decent pace.

No, I don’t want to have dinner at 5pm and go to sleep at 8pm.

Yes, I like to nap but I have liked to nap since I was 4.

No, I don’t want a sexless relationship. Sometimes it feels as if I have aged out of the sexually active category. I could stand naked by a motel with a sign reading, “The room is already paid for” and no one would take me up on the proposition.

Then there are the well-meaning people sending me articles to settle, for a man, any man who is breathing. No thank you. I deserve love as much as someone in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

I am under pressure to go on that last great vacation. One doctor told me to do everything on my bucket list before 50 because after that I would need really, really good trip insurance. “All kinds of medical things happen.” Wow, groovy, I still plan to go to Argentina.

Maybe, quite possibly, I should replace the word ‘weird’ with ‘irritable.’ I am at this really irritable time in my life.

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